150 Years Ago: Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Jul/1865)

A selection of articles and news from the Huddersfield Chronicle from 150 years ago today.


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Magistrates in Petty Sessions

NEIGHBOURS’ BICKERINGS. Maria Hill was charged with assaulting Mary Ann Eastwood on the 29th ult. Mr. Learoyd for the complainant, and Mr. Dransfield on behalf of the defendant. The parties, it seems, are neighbours, and live in Dobson’s Yard, Cross Church Street. On Thursday week the son of the defendant and the son of the complainant were quarrelling in the yard ; and the sister of the former boy ran out and seized the latter by the hair of the head. Mrs. Eastwood, on seeing what was taking place, went out to quell the disturbance, when defendant’s daughter struck her with a stick across the forehead. Immediately after this Mrs. Eastwood was rendered insensible, but she did not see by whom. Complainant subsequently spoke about the assault to Mrs. Hill, who replied “I am ready for all the law you can fetch ; and if you run all the way you cannot go fast enough.” It was proved that the defendant followed the attack with the stick and violently struck the complainant, who fell to the ground insensible. She bled freely from the mouth, and during the evening of the day on which the assault was committed had a serious attack of illness, and had been confined to bed for more than a week in consequence of the injuries received. Mr. Booth, surgeon, who had attended the complainant since the day of the affray, described the state in which he found Mrs. Eastwood, and stated that the severe symptoms did not subside until Wednesday last. The complainant was enciente. His bill amounted to £1 14s. The defence was that Mrs. Eastwood was thrashing the daughter of the defendant, who thereupon pushed her on one side. Complainant fell, and, coming into contact with the ground, might have injured herself. Their worships considered the assault proved, and fined the defendant as follows :— Mr. Booth’s bill, £1 14s. ; allowance to complainant, 10s. ; fine 10s. and costs — altogether £3 12s. 6d.

A DISORDERLY. Catherine Hopkin was committed to Wakefield for ten days, as a disorderly character, having been found concealed at half-past one on Sunday morning behind the back door of Mr. Oldroyd’s house, New North Road.

IDLERS. James Hackey and John Langan were each committed to prison for seven days as idle and disorderly characters.

District Intelligence

MOLDGREEN — Attempted Suicide.

Yesterday week, Sarah Ann, wife of Thomas Armitage, an engine tenter for Mr. George Gelder, attempted self-destruction. For some days past the young woman had been depressed in mind. About a fortnight ago the left home on a visit to her friends, and returned after four or five days’ absence in her usual health. In the meantime her husband became acquainted with the fact of her having involved him in debt, and he charged her with it. After this her conduct changed, and she became low in spirits. Since then her husband has taken from her a razor and carving knife, with which she threatened to destroy herself. Yesterday week, about ten o’clock in the forenoon she went to the shop of Mr. Dewhirst, druggist, King Street, and purchased a pennyworth of laudanum. Mr. Dewhirst labelled the bottle “poison.” This she took on reaching home. Her husband, on going to his dinner at half-past twelve o’clock, found his wife sat in a chair half unconscious, and her tongue protruding from her mouth. He instantly went for Police Sergeant Greenwood, who resides next door, when an emetic was administered, and Mr. Gardiner, surgeon, sent for. By great efforts the woman was brought round, when she exclaimed, “If I had thought it would not have killed me, I would have got more.”

NEWSOME — Accident to a Boy.

On Monday evening a boy, four years of age, the son of Joshua Hinchlitfe, spinner, of Newsome, met with a severe accident whilst playing with some other children. The little fellow with his companions had gone into a field belonging to Messrs. Taylor, manufacturers, and while there he was kicked in the face by a horse. The boy was taken home, and Mr. Goodall, surgeon, sent for, who rendered every assistance, and the sufferer is now slowly recovering.

Thunderstorm in Yorkshire

Thunderstorm in Yorkshire. On Friday, Hull and the neighbourhood were visited by a very severe thunderstorm, which, amongst other casualties, has been attended with injury to a windmill on Holderness Road and to a house in Walker Street. The storm appears to have passed over the east and north ridings of Yorkshire, and the rain with which it was accompanied has proved very welcome to the farmers. The condition of the atmosphere all Friday night and Saturday morning was highly electrical, and during the day on Saturday there was a good deal of lightning and thunder, and some very heavy rain. Many of the concussions were just over Hull. Between eleven and twelve o’clock a woman named Williamson, whose husband is in the employ of Messrs. Reckitt and Sons, whilst standing looking out at the window of her house in Pease Street, Hull, was struck by the lightning, which had the effect of paralysing the optic nerves so as to produce blindness. Dr. Usher was immediately sent for, but his efforts were vain so far as the recovery of eyesight is concerned. Somewhat earlier in the day, on the Lincolnshire side of the river, at Barton-on-the-Humber, the house of Mr. Driffield Legard, in Junction Square, was struck by the lightning, which passed through the wall into the house, and smashed some of the furniture and paintings, broke chimney ornaments, a pier-glass, tore down paper and plastering from the wall, and then passed through to the adjoining house and struck Mrs. Henwood, the wife of Mr. Henwood, shoemaker, of High Street, who at the time was standing in the room talking with her married daughter, Mrs. Siddons. Mrs. Henwood was struck on the left side, and the electric fluid passed down on that side and seriously injured her leg. About the same time two valuable cows were killed by the lightning, whilst grazing in a meadow on Cheriot Farm, near Barton. The cows were the property of Mr. Bainbridge. We have heard that four beasts were killed in a field at Storkhill, in Yorkshire.

Local News

A BOY RUN OVER. A fatal accident occurred on Thursday to W. Thornton, a boy, residing in Manchester Street. It appears that, as two lurries, coupled together, were passing along Macaulay Street, the deceased and other children playfully jumped on and off the last lurry unobserved by the driver. Thornton fell off the waggon, and one of the wheels passed over his head. The aid of Mr. Knaggs, surgeon, was called in, but before his arrival life was extinct.




Sir, Mr. Beaumont makes a great talk about what he would do for the working classes, &c. Let any one go to Crosland, and see the wretched hovels provided by him for his tenantry.

Again ; it is reported that, in consequence of certain land and cottages being wanted for the new Meltham line of Railway, now making, partly through Mr. Beaumont’s and the Earl of Dartmouth’s estates, that whilst the noble Earl demands payment for his land only, and allowed his tenantry to receive compensation for such buildings as they had erected thereon, Mr. Beaumont — the Liberal — demanded compensation for both land and cottages, and would not allow his tenants to receive one shilling. Considering that this is little better than downright robbery, I waited upon the Liberal Committee of the Southern Division of the West Riding, on Tuesday last, with a view of being allowed to question Mr. Beaumont upon so grave a charge, but was peremptorily refused.

And this is Liberalism ! Is Mr. Beaumont fit to represent the progress and industry of our ever-improving community ?

I am, your obedient servant,

Buxton Road, Huddersfield, July 14, 1835.

150 Years Ago: Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Jul/1865)

A selection of articles and news from the Huddersfield Chronicle from 150 years ago today.


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Poetry, Original and Selected


Over the water, over the water,
  Floating adown by the light of the moon ;
Fair Minnie Collins, the old miller’s daughter,
  Sitting beyond me, this evening in June.

Down went the sun in a heaven of splendour,
  Leaving the twilight still warm from his blaze :
Up came the rounded moon, tranquil and tender,
  Sheeting in silver the flood with her rays.

White water-lilies are languidly floating,
  Opening their bells amid broad leaves of green,
Bending their heads to the swell of our boating,
  As gardens aquatic we wander between.

Off from the meadows that border the river
  Comes the fresh odour of newly mown-hay.
Perfume from orchard and garden, while ever
  The bittern booms loud in the marsh far away.

I with the paddles, and she at the tiller,
  A vision I see, as we dreamily glide.
Of the long-vanished past, and the child of the miller
  Reams through the greenwood a child by my side.

Long vanished past! yet unchanged is the wild wood,
  The river flows by the same meadows and mill—
But ah, Minnie dear, we have both passed our childhood.
  The man and the maiden are drifting on still.

“Tis pleasant to float down the stream, my sweet neighbour,
  Through flowers and odours still shaping our way ;
While working up stream is a bore and a labour—
  The course of an hour we retrace in a day.

“But there’s no beating back up the stream of existence
  Onward and downward we speed evermore ;
Long or short be the voyage, in vain our resistance,
  We must sink in the ocean or strand on the shore.”

“If so it must be,” was the maiden’s replying—
  The laugh on her lip mocked the tear in her eye,
“Let us never look back on the shores that we’re flying
  But watch every change of the water and sky.”

“Then so let it be, my sweet moralist, ever ;
  In the same little shallop let both of us glide,
My arm at the oar as we go down the river,
  Your hand at the tiller to steer through the tide.”

Over the water, over the water,
  Boating adown by the light of the moon,
Wooed I and won I the old miller’s daughter,
  fair Minnie Collins, that evening in June.

Selections of Wit and Humour

When is a cat like a tea-pot? When you’re teasin it (tea’s in it).

Foreign Miscellany and Gossip

Linback, the Swedish pastor, who murdered several of his parishioners by poisoning the cup in which he administered the communion to them, has been sentenced to be beheaded.


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Public Notices

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Magistrates in Petty Sessions

A RUNAWAY HUSBAND BURNT IN EFFIGY. Henry Iredale, a pensioner, was charged with neglecting to support his wife. Mr. Learoyd defended. It appeared that the complainant, who is in a delicate state of health, applied to Mr. Sykes, relieving officer, for relief on Monday ; and he had learned that she had no home. The defendant was now cohabiting with a woman at Marsh ; and the couple had been burnt in effigy by the inhabitants of that Place. George Iredale, brother of the defendant, was called as a witness by Mr. Sykes. Iredale stated that his brother had been married to the woman, on whose behalf the complaint had been made, 14 years. After their marriage, they went to Ireland, whence the defendant proceeded to the Crimea as a soldier, and his wife returned to her parents. About five weeks ago she came from Wiltshire in search of him. She found him, but he would not receive her; and the neighbours brought her to his (witness’s) house at Rashcliffe, where she had since been staying. Cross-examined: Defendant told him he had offered her money to see her home. Was not aware that he had illtreated her. Defendant had been in the army 23 years ; and was in receipt of a pension. Mr. Learoyd, who submitted that there was no case, said he should be able to prove the woman left the defendant of her own accord. Mr. Laycock : If the Marsh people have burnt the man in effigy, will no one come to give evidence ? The Chairman said the case would be adjourned for a week, as they could not decide upon heresay evidence. The case was accordingly adjourned for a week.

CHARGE AGAINST A “PROFESSIONAL” PEDESTRIAN. Patrick Stapleton, a celebrated pedestrian, was summoned (but did not appear) under the following circumstances :— It appears that, on Thursday week, the defendant was training, between Honley and Smithy Place, for a 1,000 yards handicap, which was to come off at Leeds on the ensuing Saturday. Mr. John Goody, of South Crosland, preferred the charge, and stated that as he was driving a gig between Honley and Smithy Place, he saw the defendant who was almost stripped, and who appeared to be training for a race. Witness had a lady in the gig, or he should have stopped the defendant, and very likely thrashed him. The Chairman reminded Mr. Goody that that would have been an indiscreet act. Mr. Goody : I was very much annoyed ; he was in such a disgraceful state. Police Constable Yates stopped the man, who acknowledged that he was training for a race. The Bench inflicted a fine of 5s. and costs ; in all 18s. 6d. ; and the Chairman intimated that, if the offence was repeated, a much heavier fine would be imposed.

LYNCH LAW AT GOLCAR. Eliza Haigh was charged with assaulting Joyes Haigh at Golcar. It appeared that on Tuesday defendant went to the house of the complainant, and pushed her against a washing machine. Complainant, who was making a pudding, had in her hand a rolling pin, and with this she “broke” the head of the defendant, who then called her all sorts of names. Mr. Laycock : You have taken the law into your own hands. The Chairman thought the complainant had acted improperly, and the case was discharged.

TRESPASS BY PIGS. Joseph Dawson, Longwood, was summoned for committing damage to a field of James Mayhall by suffering pigs to be therein. Defendant admitted that the pigs were in ; and a fine of 1s. 6d. damage, and costs were imposed ; and the defendant was advised to keep his pigs at home in future.

OBSCENE LANGUAGE. Michael Mahon, an old offender, was fined 1s. and costs 10s., or ten days to prison, for using disgusting epithets to Catherine Gannon on Monday last.

The Netherton Gas Company

This is a follow-on blog post from the previous one about the Netherton lamp post.


Wrigley Mills, Netherton, also known as Cocking Steps Mill, had had its own gas supply as early as the 1850s and discussions had begun by December 1852 amongst some of the wealthier inhabitants of Netherton with Messrs. John Wrigley & Sons for the mill to share its supply with the village.1 Unlike natural gas today, the mill would have most likely created its own gas supply by burning coal.

The intention was to form a company, issue shares and then use the money to lay mains from the mill up to the village. The gas would then be sold for a higher price to end customers than the company was paying the Wrigleys in order to recoup the costs and to hopefully pay an annual dividend.

The shareholders met again on the evening of 14 March 1853 to discuss the planned route of the gas main up the hill to the village.2 At a meeting a week later at the Rose and Crown Inn, they examined several estimates for the laying of the pipes and they selected that of Mr. Boothroyd, a plumber of glazier of Lockwood.

This was presumably 29-year-old Joseph Boothroyd (born Fartown) of Buxton Road, Lockwood, listed in the 1851 Census as a “master plumber and glazier employing 2 labourers”. He had married Elizabeth Thompson on 14 December 1845 at the parish church in Huddersfield and they had at least 7 children.

The work was scheduled to be completed by 1 September, which was a significant date, as the shareholders had already agreed the supply terms with the mill. From the first day of September until the very last day of April, the Wrigleys would supply gas to the village at a cost 4s. 3d. per thousand cubic feet.

By September 1853, the Huddersfield Chronicle was able to report:3

The Gas Works.

These works have now been completed, and pnt into operation, and the inhabitants of Netherton are rejoicing in the light which has been happily shed upon them. The gas is of good quality, and most, if not all, the principal innkeepers, grocers, and other public dealers, as well as many principal families have gas in their rooms, and have their burning apparatus in the first style of the day. We are informed that a subscription is on foot to have one or more gas lamps in the streets for the use of the public.

A further report appeared in the Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Nov/1853):

The Gas Company.

The public-spirited gentlemen in this little village have now enlightened the place outwardly as well as inwardly. Gas lamps are being put up at the corners of the streets, in front of some of the inns and the larger shops, and again at the entrance gates to gentlemen’s houses. Thus the inhabitants will have no difficulty in going to any part of the village in the night time, and many accidents will be thereby prevented.

The first year evidently went well, as the Chronicle (16/Sep/1854) reported gave an update the following year:

Gas Company.

The first annual meeting of the Netherton gas company was held on Wednesday night, at the Rose and Crown Inn, and the result of the year has richly rewarded the shareholders, and shows that their enterprising spirit has been appreciated. James Wrigley, Esq., occupied the chair, sad the report of the secretary, Mr. Samuel Pontefract, showed that the affairs of the company are in a very prosperous position. In the first year’s operations of such an undertakings the expenditure was, of course, heavier than may be anticipated in future years. Near ten per cent interest was declared, and the shareholders were paid seven and a half per cent on their shares, and the residue was left to meet future incidental expenses. The report gave great satisfaction, and after a vote of thanks to the worthy chairman the meeting closed.

This success caused other villages to consider setting up a similar scheme, and the Chronicle (04/Nov/1854) reported that a second meeting had taken place at the Town Hall in Honley, chaired by Mr. Joseph Midwood, for the purpose of “forming a gas company”.

The gas supply for Huddersfield was supplied the town’s Gas Works and, in November 1860, it was announced that the company was to be dissolved in order to form a new company (the Huddersfield Gas Company) which would supply the town centre as well as many of the outlying districts.

In mid-June 1884, the Netherton Gas Company found themselves on the wrong side of the law when Sergeant Shuttleworth and Police Constable Chapman, who were patrolling Netherton at night, nearly fell into a trench that had been dug by the side of the road by Joseph Taylor for the purposes of laying new gas pipes. Taylor had requested that the company provide a warning light but “was told that there was no necessity for one”. Hopefully the company covered Taylor’s fine of £1 and 6s. 6d. costs!

At some point, a separate South Crosland Gas Company was established, although this seems to have been an offshoot of the Netherton Gas Company.

advertisement from the Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Nov/1887)
advertisement from the Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Nov/1887)

Before long, most of the villages surrounding Huddersfield had their own gas supply companies, which led to a wide variation in prices being charged. The supplies could also be temperamental and in December 1872, the supply to Meltham was cut off, leaving the village in darkness. Several of the local mills were running overtime shifts that evening but they had to be closed and the staff sent home in the dark.4

Further newspaper references to the Netherton Gas Company are summarised below and are from the Huddersfield Chronicle unless specified (the dates given are those of the article):

  • 10/Mar/1893 — At a meeting of the South Crosland Local Board, assurances were given that the gas company would, in future, ensure that the Board’s surveyor was notified in advance of any road works. It was also noted that the company was unable to reduce the price of the gas used for public lamps in the village.
  • 24/Jun/1893 — A public meeting was held at the Netherton Liberal Club to consider “the advisability of asking the Huddersfield Corporation to bring the gas to Netherton”, as the price of the gas supplied by the Netherton Gas Company was nearly double that paid by those in Huddersfield. A small committee was elected to progress this matter.
  • 21/Jul/1893 — A meeting was held by the ratepayers of South Crosland and Netherton at the Oddfellows’ Hall in Netherton to discuss the pricing of the gas supply. The price of gas in neighbouring areas was read out: 2s. 9d. in Huddersfield, 3s. 4d. in Meltham, 3s. 9d. in Honley, Slaithwaite and Linthwaite, 5s. 10d. in Netherton and 6s. 6d. in South Crosland. John Radcliffe5, of the Netherton Gas Company, attended and stated that the rumours of the company’s profit margins were much exaggerated and had never been more than 10 percent per annum. The meeting ended with the proposition (which was carried by a large majority) that “we request the Huddersfield Corporation to treat with the Netherton Gas Company, with a view to the purchase of their plant”.
  • 21/Dec/1893 — The Huddersfield County Borough Council meeting discussed a letter sent by the Netherton Gas Company asking if the Corporation would be willing to “take over the pipes and apparatus put down by the company”. The Corporation agreed that it would be willing to “meet the company in a fair and amicable spirit, and to take over such of the pipes and apparatus as might be found to be of use” to them.
  • 08/Mar/1894 — The South Crosland Local Board reported that the Huddersfield Corporation Gasworks had written to the Board to inform them that they would be digging up the road to inspect the gas mains which belonged to the Netherton Gas Company and that they would also be laying new gas mains to the area.
  • 17/May/1894 — Following the inspection of the Netherton Gas Company’s mains, it was reported to the Huddersfield County Borough Council that leaks were found that would amount to around 500,000 feet per annum and they entire mains would need to be dug up to locate and repair the leaks.
  • 19/Jul/1894 — The Huddersfield County Borough Council considered a request by the Netherton Gas Company that they purchase the existing mains for £300. It was agreed to offer the company £266 instead.
  • 16/Aug/1894 — It was reported that provisional terms had been agreed for the takeover of the Netherton Gas Company’s mains.
  • Leeds Times (22/Sep/1894) — At the meeting of the Huddersfield County Borough Council it was reported that the mains had been purchased for £266 and the Huddersfield Gas Works was now supplying the area. Over 200 applications for the new gas supply had been received from the “inhabitants of Netherton”.

And with that, the 41 year history of the Netherton Gas Company came to an end!

150 Years Ago: Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Jul/1865)

A selection of articles and news from the Huddersfield Chronicle from 150 years ago today.


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Selections of Wit and Humour

Why was Bonaparte’s horse like his master? — Because he had a martial neigh (Marshall Ney).


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Local News


Meeting at Crosland Moor.

In consequence of the high price of butcher’s meat, a meeting of working men was held in the schoolroom, Crosland Moor, on Monday night last — about 300 persons being present — to devise means to obtain a reduction in the price of that article of food. Timothy Bates occupied the chair. Resolutions were adopted to abstain from the use of butcher’s meat for one month, and unless the price be then lowered, another meeting should be convened to consider what further steps should be taken in the matter.

Magistrates in Petty Sessions


Levi Crompton, Mark Gledhill, and Ephraim Gledhill, weavers, Longwood, were summoned for obstructing a footpath. Police Constable Wilson stated that he had received frequent complaints of men and boys playing cards and otherwise gambling on footpaths in the fields. About a quarter past seven o’clock, on Saturday evening, he saw the defendants in a footpath near Leach’s, at Longwood. The officer concealed himself behind a wall, and from his hiding-place espied Mark and Ephraim Gledhill playing at cards. Crompton stood up, looked about to see if there was any one coming, and then sat down again. Levi said, “I’ll bet on the game.” Wilson, after satisfying himself, presented himself to the defendants, and seized one of them (Ephraim), who had the cards in his hand. The defendants sat near a style, and obstructed the footpath. The defence was that no money was played for, and that the footpath was not obstructed. The officer said he had previously cautioned the men, who were fined 2s. 6d. and costs each ; in all, 10s. 6d.


John Ainley, a notorious character, who answers to the alias of “Ripponden Jack,” had been summoned under the following circumstances :— Mr. Superintendent Hannan said the complainant in this case was Ann Senior, occupier of the Unicorn, a licensed house, at Castlegate. Ainley and other notorieties had been accustomed to frequent the complainant’s house, create disturbances, and assault and rob people. When the beerhouses closed, many persons resorted to the Unicorn, and therefore it was important to the complainant that an end should be made of such unruly behaviour. If the case was proved he should ask their worships to inflict a penalty that would deter the defendant and his associates from continuing their disgraceful proceedings. Mrs. Senior stated that between eleven and twelve o’clock on the previous Tuesday evening the defendant and others, who were very much “beerified,” came into her house and demanded a quantity of drink. She refrained from filling any ale for them, and Ainley threatened to turn out the lights. They were ordered to quit the premises, but the defendant rejoined that he would go when he pleased. Ainley pushed her (complainant) about a good deal, and was taken out of the house by a companion named Stringer. Defendant was fined 10s. and expenses ; altogether £1, or the option of 21 days in gaol.


William Moore, a labourer from Birchincliffe, Lindley, was summoned for using abusive and obscene language to Elizabeth Hey, of the Walker’s Arms Inn, of that place. The defendant pleaded guilty. The language used was foul and filthy in the extreme, and having previously been guilty of similar indecencies, he was fined 10s. and l1s. expenses, or the alternative of a month to prison.

District Intelligence

FARNLEY TYAS — Fatal Accident

Yesterday (Friday evening week) the inhabitants of Farnley Tyas were thrown into a state of excitement by the report that Mr. John Kaye, of the Golden Cock Inn, of that village, had met with a severe accident. On enquiries being made the facts proved to be as follow :— Mr. Kaye, who was a farmer as well as innkeeper, was on Friday afternoon proceeding to his field with a cart load of sheep nets and stakes, accompanied by his servant boy Wigglesworth. Mr. Kaye was sitting on the top of the loaded cart, and while proceeding down Field Lane, to the field, the horse took fright Mr. Kaye was thrown backward off the cart, and fell on to a heap of small stones. The boy Wigglesworth ran for assistance, and the injured man was removed home where Mr. Dyson, surgeon, of Almondbury was promptly in attendance but all efforts were in vain, and Mr. Kaye died about half-past twelve o’clock on Saturday noon. Deceased was 66 years of age and highly respected, not only by the villagers but by all who knew him. He was a man of whom it might truly be said, few in any sphere have passed through life more respected and esteemed for his sterling qualities as a master, a husband, parent, and friend. Mr. Kaye, like most of the tenantry on the Farnley estate, was descended from an ancient family, who from generation to generation had lived upon the same farm, borne the same name, and been equally respected, from the time of the Saxons. Mr. Kaye was a man of unostentatious manners, kind disposition, and warm attachment. In his business as a publican he was remarkable. In his house no tippling was ever allowed, and if a man was the worse for liquor, no persuasion could induce him to supply more. Equally inflexible was he where he saw a man wishful to spend money that ought to be taken to his family. One pint, and one only, would he suffer such an one to have in his house. This, and his other qualities had endeared him to the whole village, and his loss will not soon be forgotten.

HONLEY — Female Club Feast.

On Monday afternoon, the ladies of the “Lily of the Valley” Lodge of Ancient Royal Shepherdesses had their annual tea at the Coach and Horses Inn, Honley. The lodge consists of upwards of 100 females, 82 of whom sat down to tea, which Mrs. Walker, knowing the tastes of the ladies, took care to make of the right sort. Besides a good supply of “Jamaica,” they had an abundance of “Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” in the shape of ham sandwiches, which were enjoyed with much zest. The time was danced merrily away.

NETHERTON — Funeral of a Musician.

On Wednesday last hundreds of persons assembled to witness the funeral obsequies of Godfrey Berry, a cloth miller for Messrs. Crowther, of Lockwood, but who resided with his wife and family at the Big Valley. The deceased was only 46 years of age, was inordinately fond of music, and highly respected by all who gained his acquaintance. The deceased originally sprang from Marsden, where his father was greatly esteemed for his love of the divine art. The custom of Old Berry was, immediately after dinner, to gather the whole of his children round the table, and there give them a lesson in music. This was repeated in the evening, till the old man could at any time produce an excellent concert among his own family. His son Godfrey followed in the steps of his father, and being a good instrumentalist himself — being able to perform upon many different instruments — taught all his family music in the same way he had himself been taught. Berry, who had been ill some time, died on Sunday evening last. His musical friends assembled on Wednesday last to pay a last tribute of respect to his memory. The members of the Meltham and Netherton bands preceded the mournful cortège from the house of the deceased to the grave, at Crosland Churchyard, playing effectively the Dead March ; and as the procession passed through the village the inhabitants turned out to take a last farewell of one they esteemed.

MARSH — Popular Indignation.

On Monday evening last Marsh was the scene of great excitement consequent upon an attempted piece of lynch law, known as riding the “stang.” The circumstances giving rise to this popular expression of indignation appear to be as follows. Some two years ago a pensioner named Henry Iredale took up his residence in Cross Lane, Marsh, and lived, to all appearance, as a single man. About twelve months since a man known as “Lanky Ben” died leaving a widow and several children. Our hero of the army soon became familiar with the widow and thus matters went on till some weeks since when the real wife of the pensioner — whom it seems he had left in her native Wiltshire — put in an appearance, to the great discomfiture of the soldier. His treatment of his lawful partner and the scandal thus brought on Marsh aroused the indignation of the populace who resolved on the summary punishment of the delinquents by burning him and his cara sposa in effigy. Accordingly figures were prepared; one representing a soldier — scarlet coat, sergeant’s stripes, cap, boots, and all complete ; the other, a female in full dress ; and with these, preceded by the Lindley brass band, accompanied by nearly 2,000 people, they commenced parading the village about nine o’clock on Monday night. They, however, had not proceeded far before they were intercepted by Police Sergeant Sedgwick, Police Constable Stansfield, and Police Constable Hawksby, who induced the parties to give up the figures, which they did with great reluctance. These were deposited for security in the stable of the Junction Inn, from whence the mob determined to take them, which becoming known to the police, they managed to escape with them from the back of the stable over the fields towards Paddock. They were, however, observed by an old woman, who screamed out at the top of her voice, “T’ police are staleing ’em.” At this hundreds started in pursuit, and succeeded in recapturing the female from Sedgwick, which they afterwards burnt in front of Iredale’s house, in Cross Lane. Stansfield was more fortunate, as he escaped with his capture, with the loss of its head only. The crowd continued to pace about the place, making noisy demonstrations, the band continuing playing at intervals in front of the Marsh House Inn till long after midnight, when the people gradually dispersed, many, however, remaining till after one o’clock in the morning. Fearing a repetition of the turbulence on Tuesday night, a large posse of police were stationed in the locality to prevent anything of the kind, but nothing more was attempted.

Athletic Festival

The members of the Huddersfield Athletic Club celebrated their first annual festival on Saturday afternoon, when they had a “field day” in the Rifle Ground, Trinity-street. An out-door spectacle to be successful must be attended with auspicious weather. With the exception of a gentle gale, Saturday was as beautiful and as delightful a day as the lovers and patrons of open air sports could well wish; and in this respect the athletic festival may be accounted a singularly happy and prosperous event. The elete were largely represented ; and there was a goodly coterie of ladies, whose graceful forms and dashing garments imbued the scene with an aspect of gaiety, and splendour.


In which, out of eleven who had entered, three members competed, namely, T. Beardsall, W.N. Haigh, and A.J. Loseby. Much excitement was elicited by this feat of pedestrianism, and Beardsall, whose style of walking was deservedly admired, was greatly applauded as he outstepped his opponents. He maintained the lead throughout, and won easily. Haigh kept ahead of Loseby and came in a good second. The time occupied by the contest was 19 minutes 35 seconds. The distance, however, could have been accomplished more speedily but for the uneven condition of the course.


The 14lbs. hammer was used pretty freely. Ten entered, only seven competed ; but there was some good throwing. The triumph remained between J. Dow and Wm. Crowther, the latter of whom finished by throwing 86 feet, 2 ft. less than the former.


Seven of the nine who had-entered ran. The race which was somewhat exciting, was completed in 17 seconds by C.W. Beardsall, with F.J. Stewart at his heels, and the rest of the pedestrians landing in close proximity to each other.


Five competitors (nine entered) participated in the single vaulting. F.A. Pilling was most successful ; M.H. Bradley being next. Height 6 feet 1 inch.


This race, over seven hurdles and a water jump 12 feet wide, fronted by a hurdle 18 inches high, distance 200 yards, brought 13 of the 29 who had entered to the post. The contest created the greatest amusement, and the spectators — those who had not quitted the field — were convulsed with laughter as the exhausted competitors were immersed in the water, which was cleared only by H. Jones, who was heartily applauded as he alighted on the opposite embankment. The race was run in heats, the first of which was won by B. Beardsall in 1 minute 20 seconds ; M. Bradley being second. The second heat was accomplished in 1 minute 25 seconds ; and the deciding heat, in the same time, was won by A. Bradley, D.K. Rhodes being the second.


The unsuccessful competitors’ “consolation scramble,” 100 yards, was well contested, and ultimately won by C. Atkinson, J. Brooke coming in for the bronze medal.


Throwing the cricket ball was the last act in the athletic performance ; and there were eight entries. Many persons witnessed the throwing, and the successful feat was achieved by J.E. Jones; B. Crowther being entitled to the second prize. The longest distance the ball was thrown was about eighty yards, as stepped by several gentlemen who took an interest in the competition.

150 Years Ago: Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Jun/1865)

A selection of articles and news from the Huddersfield Chronicle from 150 years ago today.


1865.06.24 advert 1

1865.06.24 advert 2

1865.06.24 advert 3

Selections of Wit and Humour

The bachelor has to look out for number one — the married man for number two.

Magistrates in Petty Sessions

HARBOURING DISORDERLY COMPANY. Wm. Hopwood, occupier of the Brown Cow beerhouse, Castlegate, was summoned for having disorderly persons in his house. Police Sergeant Mellor stated that on Monday, about twenty minutes to four o’clock, he went to the above house, and found in one of the rooms six women and 15 or 16 men, under the influence of drink. In the front room there were five men, who had apparently partaken freely of liquor. Mellor spoke to the landlady concerning the conduct of the company, who were indulging in most obscene language, and left the house, but returned with another officer about twenty minutes to five o’clock, when the company were still behaving themselves in a very improper manner. Some of the women were “unfortunates,” and one was a returned convict. Police Constable Sedgwick gave corroborative evidence, after which Mr. J.I. Freeman, on behalf of the defendant, said he was instructed to deny the statement of the officers. The persons in the kitchen were the relatives of Hopwood’s wife, but it was true that one of them had had the misfortune of being convicted. He (Mr. Freeman) had been assured that no bad language was used, and there was no disturbance. Mary Gannon, a washerwoman, substantiated the statement of Mr. Freeman, and afterwards Mr. Superintendent Hannan informed the Bench that the house had been very badly conducted, and that the defendant had recently been convicted at the sessions of harbouring prostitutes. Fined 10s. and expenses ; total 19s.

THE “UMBRELLA” COURTSHIP. Ann Mooney was summoned for assaulting Mary Walters on the 20th inst. Complainant stated that on Tuesday the defendant seized her by the hair of the head and dragged her to the ground. The only motive for the assault was that the complainant had threatened to summon the defendant, who had assaulted her on the Sunday. Defendant asserted that the complainant had annoyed her, and had accused her of “being with a man under an umbrella in the passage.” The case was dismissed.

District Intelligence

HOLMFIRTH — Mill Accident.

On Wednesday last, at the mill of Messrs. Joshua Barber and Sons, at Holmbridge, a young woman named Thewlis, met with a serious accident. It appears that she was employed on a condensing machine, and that she had to put a chain on to a pulley connected with the machine. To do this it was her duty to do so on the outside of a slowly revolving wheel also connected with the machine ; but instead of doing so she thoughtlessly put her arm through the spokes of the slow wheel, and before she could withdraw it she was caught and her arm was dreadfully mutilated. Dr. Trotter was sent for, and was soon in attendance, and recommended her to be sent to the Huddersfield Infirmary, where she was at once conveyed. No blame attaches to any one but the young woman herself, who is 30 years old and ought to have been more cautious.

KIRKBURTON — Omnibus Accident.

On Monday evening last an accident occurred to Jenkinson’s omnibus on its way to Kirkburton, which was unattended with the slightest personal injury. The ‘bus had proceeded all right as far as Fenay Bridge, and while ascending the steep hill, near the works of Messrs. Riley Brothers, the off hind wheel came off, but the ‘bus was brought to a stand before the passengers were aware of any danger. Being brought to a stand, the ‘bus fell down for want of support, which caused the breaking of the springs. Another ‘bus was speedily obtained from Burton, and the passengers conveyed to their respective destinations.

MELTHAM — “Disgraceful Conduct of a Band.”

Under this head a letter appeared in the Chronicle of the 10th instant signed a “Lover of order,” complaining of the Holme Mills band playing past the church at Meltham on Whit-Monday, while the Rev. Mr. Ince was preaching, and continuing to do so after they had been requested to desist. In reply to this, we have received a fetter from Mr. Godfrey Wood, leader of the band, stating that the writer of the previous letter had been unnecessarily hard upon the band, who were strangers to what was going on in the church, and were ignorant of the practices of Meltham on this occasion. Mr. Wood also alleges that it is a common practice on holiday occasions for bands to play through the villages, and the Holm Mills band only observed this rule, and had no idea of interrupting any one. He also enquires how the band could give up in the middle of a tune, when they were in marching order, and complains of the “excited manner” in which the person went to the band and demanded them to desist, at which the band were not well-pleased, and refused to answer the enquiry where they came from. The band is not Mr. Crowther’s, but relies on its own resources, and is called the Holm Mills brass band, and while going to play for other Sunday scholars on the above day, they had no intention of disturbing the “kind people at Meltham,” and urges that Whit-Monday not being set apart for religious worship the same as Sunday, they had a perfect right to play and enjoy themselves on the occasion.

Local News

Patent Self-acting Fire Extinguisher.

A patent self-acting fire extinguisher has been tested near the Cloth Hall, by Mr. Alfred Wilby, of Hightown, near Cleckheaton. The patentees are Messrs. J.G. Hey and V. Savory, Cleckheaton. The extinguisher, which is a simple invention, consists of a perforated ball, supplied with water by means of a metallic tube, at the end of which is a valve. This valve is held by solder, which is covered by a fusible material. The ball is also charged with the patent combustible material, which will ignite when the temperature of heat has reached 140 degrees. The explosion of one material thus ignites the other combustible compound, the valve is opened, and the water flowing through the perforated ball, is ejected in all directions, the distance being in a measure in proportion to the quantity of water passing through the mains. The extinguisher, which may be attached to steam or water pipes, is useful and comparatively inexpensive.

Snakes and Monkeys!

1870 was a good year for stories about escaped exotic animals!

In May, the Huddersfield Chronicle took great delight in reporting the police’s attempts to capture a snake in the town centre:1

Capture of a Runaway Snake.

On Sunday morning two boys called at the Borough Police Station, and informed Inspector Townend that they had seen a snake crawling down Cross Queen Street — a narrow thoroughfare at the rear of the Gymnasium Hall and the Theatre Royal, and extending, from Bull and Mouth Street, near the Police Station, to Queen Street. Inspector Townend, upon the “information received,” sallied from the office, and, near the Fire Brigade Station, in the narrow street alluded to already, espied the reptile, which would be about one yard long. The Inspector, not knowing whether it was of a venemous or docile order, felt somewhat perplexed, and contemplated the “apprehension” of the monster with bated breath. While the Inspector occupied himself with devising means for the successful capture of the stranger, who was now in jeopardy of being “brought up” under the Vagrant Act, for “wandering abroad without any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself,” the snake kept crawling onwards, to the evident amusement and gratification of the bystanders, and the Inspector was loathe to lay hands upon it, or take it into his custody. Mr. C.P. Hobkirk, however, happened to be passing, and went to the assistance of the Inspector, who, with unusual willingness, resigned his charge into other hands. Mr. Hobkirk took possession of the snake, and preserved it in the ordinary way. On Tuesday morning Mr. Withers, head constable, received a note from Mr. W.E. Thomas, stating that, in autumn last, a snake escaped from its box at the Naturalist Society’s exhibition, held in the Gymnasium Hall, and it was never found. If the snake captured on Sunday morning is that which escaped in autumn, it would be difficult to trace the ground over which, with its slow locomotion it has traversed ; and naturalists will be curious to know the kind of food upon which it has subsisted in the meantime.

In October, the Chronicle reported on an escaped monkey in Dungeon Wood, Lockwood:2

Escape and Capture of a Monkey.

On Wednesday morning, as a gentleman from Lockwood was enjoying a stroll through Dungeon Wood, he was somewhat startled by a strange sound and rustling of the bushes. A retriever dog, with which he was accompanied, soon unearthed the cause of the alarm, which proved to be an untamed monkey. Perceiving its enemy (the dog), the monkey began to chatter most energetically, at the same time bounding and climbing from one wall to another, and anon secreting itself among the brushwood. The canine tormentor did not allow it to remain long in its hiding place, and, had it not been for the timely interference of the gentleman, no doubt the monkey would have been severely treated by its pursuer. At length the monkey was captured, and claimed by Mr. Davis, lithographer, whose brother, a seaman, had recently brought it from abroad. The monkey had for the night been fastened under the cellar steps, but had contrived to escape.

illustration from "Hunting and Trapping Stories: A Book for Boys" (1903)
illustration from “Hunting and Trapping Stories: A Book for Boys” (1903)

150 Years Ago: Huddersfield Chronicle (17/Jun/1865)

A selection of articles and news from the Huddersfield Chronicle from 150 years ago today.


1865.06.17 advert2

1865.06.17 advert3

Public Notices

LOST, on Tuesday, June 6th, by Mr. Matthew Hepworth, of Newcastle, a Bunch of KEYS. Any person finding the same, are requested to take them to the Warehouse of Messrs. Hall Bros., and Middlemost, Westgate, where they will be Rewarded.

Selections of Wit and Humour

A player performing the Ghost in Hamlet very badly, was hissed ; after bearing it a good while, he put the audience in good humour, by stepping forward and saying “Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely sorry that my humble endeavours to please are unsuccessful ; but if you are not satisfied, I must give up the ghost.”

Miscellaneous News and Home Gossip

A daring “diving feat” was performed at Newcastle on Monday. A young fellow, named Gascoigne, plunged into the Tyne from the middle arch of the High Level Bridge, throwing a somersault in his descent. He was bleeding from the mouth when he emerged from the water, but otherwise he seemed to be none the worse. It however, since transpired that Gascoigne seriously injured himself by his leap. He is now confined to his bed, and is under medical treatment in Newcastle ; but as to the extent of his injuries nothing positive can be learned.

Magistrates in Petty Sessions

SUNDAY SPORTS. Samuel Scott, B. Shaw, Allen Crosland, James Walker, Charles Hall, and John Walker, all of Longwood, were charged with playing at unlawful sports and pastimes on Sunday. Police Constable Batty stated that he was on duty the previous Sunday afternoon, at Clough Bottom, Longwood. Seeing a number of persons collected together, he concealed himself at the back of a number of deal boards in Broadbent’s field, where he had a full opportunity of watching them. After a short time he was enabled to select out the whole of the six defendants, who were “pitching” with pennies. As soon as he made them out he emerged from his concealment and went towards them, when they all ran off as hard as they could. They were each fined 3s. 4d., as prescribed by law, and expenses, or in default 14 days each in prison.

EXTRAORDINARY “MISTAKE” AND ASSAULT. Ellen Dyson, who was attired in the apparel of a widow, was summoned for having assaulted Charlotte Barnes. Mr. J. I. Freeman defended. Complainant stated that she lived about four doors from the defendant. About seven o’clock on Wednesday evening, in consequence of what was said to her by one of her children, she went to the house of the defendant, and, on going upstairs, found her husband in an indecent state in bed. Whilst complainant was trying to get her husband out of bed, Mrs. Dyson, who was absent when she entered the house, came upstairs, kicked her in the side, and would “nearly have killed her” had not her (complainant’s) daughter come to the rescue. On the following day (Thursday) when going up the yard, Mrs. Barnes met the defendant, who was very drunk and reared against some railings. As Mrs. Barnes passed, the defendant called her a gipsy, and exclaimed, “I’ll give it thee.” Complainant turned round, and then the defendant spat in her face several times, pulled her to the ground by the hair of the head, and knelt upon her chest. Since the assault, she had been emitting blood. Cross-examined : Defendant did not tell me she did not want my husband. Never heard her say she would not go in the house until he came out. John Westbury, who is employed near the spot where the alleged assault was committed, said he saw and heard Mrs. Barnes and Mrs. Dyson differing, which resulted in a fight. Dyson had Barnes on the floor by the hair of the head. He pulled Mrs. Dyson off, and told her to go into the house and behave herself. Dyson said she would teach the complainant for beginning of her. Mr. Freeman, in defence, submitted that the defendant was no party to the complainant’s husband going to her dwelling. Having been drinking at a beer house next door to the defendant’s he must have mistaken the house. That circumstance, however, did not transpire on the day of the assault with which the defendant was charged, and he could not conceive why it had been introduced, save for the purpose of lending a stronger colour to the picture. A girl, nine years of age, gave her version of the quarrel on behalf of the defendant. Dyson, she said, cried out “Gipsy.” Barnes turned back and spat in the face of Dyson, who retaliated in the same disgusting style. Barnes struck Dyson, who then pulled the complainant down by the “lugs.”1 The Bench considered that other evidence ought to have been adduced by the defendant, and, believing that an assault had been committed, mulcted her in a penalty of 5s. and expenses ; total 15s.

District Intelligence

KIRKBURTON — Prize singing.

On Saturday afternoon last, the first of an intended annual lark singing match was held at the house of Mr. Wm. Lodge, the Spring Grove Tavern, Burton Dean, when a large number of persons attended to hear these beautiful warblers. Six cages were hung, and the birds experienced a fair trial. There were three prizes arranged, the two first being obtained by Mr. Thewlis, and Mr. Copley, of Lascelles Hall, whose birds sang nine minutes each without a broken note. Instead of trying again, they agreed to divide the two prizes equally between themselves. The third prize was awarded to Mr. Thornton, of Newsome. All passed off satisfactorily.

KIRKBURTON — The Branch Railway.

For weeks past the inhabitants of Kirkburton, Shelley, Skelmanthorpe, and Clayton West have evinced the greatest anxiety at the progress made by the passing through committee of the Barnsley and Kirkburton Railway Bill. During the whole of Wednesday last expectation was on tip-toe as to the decision of the committee. The last “bus” from Huddersfield conveyed the welcome and joyful news that the committee had declared the preamble proved. No sooner was it heard than it spread like electricity through the dense thousands that thronged the feast, and instantly a subscription was set on foot, the bells rang, bands paraded the streets, and every possible demonstration of joy was made at the result. Similar rejoicings occurred at Emley, Skelmanthorpe, Clayton, and other places which were continued throughout the whole of Thursday.

CLAYTON WEST — The Nightingale.

The inhabitants have of late been nightly favoured with the song of this delightful warbler. During Thursday night in last week no fewer than four of these songsters were singing at one time, and numbers of people listening to them.

GOLCAR — A Runaway Truck.

On Saturday evening last, Mr. John Iredale, coal merchant, left in his siding, below the Golcar Railway Station, a truck loaded with upwards of seven tons of coals. The truck was some 15 or 20 yards from the junction with the main line, across which was placed the usual “scotcher” block. About a quarter to two o’clock on Sunday morning, parties at Milnsbridge were startled at seeing a loose truck dashing at rapid speed down the line over the Longwood Viaduct. The truck in its descent gathered speed at every revolution of the wheels until it dashed past the Huddersfield Station, at a speed of not less than 40 or 50 miles an hour. There having been no warning of its approach prior to entering the tunnel, nothing could be done to check its speed, and on it dashed down the incline to Bradley, where its velocity was tremendous. Past the junction it rushed on to Mirfield, where, fortunately, the night pointsman observed it, and with admirable presence of mind, turned it up the incline siding of the Bradford line, where its speed was at once checked, and the truck brought to a stand without doing the slightest damage. It is believed that some mischievous persons had pushed the truck from the siding over the “scotcher,” and thus set it going.

The Handsome Pillar Lamp of Netherton

In an earlier blog post, I wondered if the “handsome pillar lamp” on Moor Lane in Netherton was the one which is due to celebrate its 150th birthday this year, and I’m now able to answer my own question — it is!


Just to recap, an article in the Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Jun/1865) first mentioned the pillar lamp:


A Long-Needed Improvement.

Netherton for many years past has been much behind many villages in public improvements, but the formation of the railway and other causes appear to have given a good impetus to it, and, of late, considerable improvements have been made. Among the greatest of these is the laying down at present of a substantial and much-needed flagged causeway, together with the erection of a handsome pillar lamp, at the cross, which, when completed, will be an ornament to the village.

It’s likely the lamp was actually erected a few months later, as the next mention of it appears in the Huddersfield Chronicle on 23 September:

Light! Light!

Netherton will now no longer be kept in total darkness during the long winter nights, especially in the centre of the village. In the middle of the cross, or what would be termed the market place, has been erected a handsome and ornamental pillar lamp-post, surmounted by a large hexagonal-shaped lamp which, when lighted, throws its rays a long distance on three roads, viz.: down the hill towards the Big Valley, up the road to Meltham, and along the road leading to Wrigley Mill. Besides this, there are two lamps on the Wrigley Mill Road, and one at the Rose and Crown Inn. The inhabitants have already experienced much benefit by having light (gas) thrown upon their ways.

The current location of the pillar lamp is away from the main road, but helpfully this photograph taken in June 1945 for the Huddersfield Examiner shows the original location. The gentleman crossing the road is walking towards the Post Office.


The same junction today looks very different, as the buildings (including the Post Office) are long gone and the newer Netherton Surgery is in their place:

According to Images of Huddersfield (1994) by Isobel Schofield, the pillar lamp was moved to its current location after being hit by a lorry and it can now by found on Moor Lane, opposite the junction with Netherton Fold:

In a future blog post, we’ll look at the up and downs of the Netherton Gas Company, who had been lighting the village since the autumn of 1853.

advertisement from the Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Nov/1887)
advertisement from the Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Nov/1887)

The 1883 Tramcar Tragedy – Part 3: The Inquest

This is the last in a three part series of blog posts about the tramcar accident of 3 July 1883 which killed seven people. The first part described the accident, the second details those involved, and this final part documents the inquest.

melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)
melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)

To do justice to the full inquest and all the press coverage would fill a small book, so this blog post will just be a (very lengthy!) day-by-day summary of events. However, the original articles are all linked to, so you can delve deeper into the inquest if you want to and a all the articles I found during research can be browsed here.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only tragedy that day which made the newspapers, as the capsizing of the SS Daphne had happened in Glasgow only a few hours before, resulting in the deaths of over 120 people. More locally, 2 children had been trampled to death in Sheffield the day before the tramcar accident and, the day after, near the village of Silkstone, 26 children drowned in the Huskar Pit Disaster.

the Huskar Pit Disaster monument (© Steve Fareham)
the Huskar Pit Disaster monument (© Steve Fareham)

Tuesday 3 July 1883

The Lindley tramcar crash on Railway Street likely happened around 2:55pm.

By around 3:05pm the engine and car had been moved into St. George’s Square and the injured had been carried into nearby premises whilst they were attended to by Dr. Erson, local chemist Mr. Cuthbert and trained first-aider Duke Fox, amongst others. A steady stream of horse-drawn cabs ferried the majority of the passengers involved in crash to the Huddersfield Infirmary.

Due to the crowd of sightseers who perhaps knew nothing of the crash but were drawn to the spectacle of the shattered tramcar standing outside the railway station, it was driven down Northumberland Street to the tram shed on the junction of Lord Street (roughly where the Post Office is located today). By that evening, the engine was placed under a round-the-clock police guard with strict instructions that no-one was to go near the engine “under any pretence”.

Infant Annie Moore was dead by the time she reached the Huddersfield Infirmary, and probably died at the crash site. Her father, Fred Moore, died around 8pm. David Bertenshaw Taylor died about 20 minutes later. Isabella Woodhouse had died around 5pm, a couple of hours after the accident. Sarah Clegg was partly conscious when admitted to the Infirmary and died at around 7:45pm. According the Infirmary’s House Surgeon, all five had died as a result of the head injuries they received in the crash.

Councillor Armitage Haigh, the Chairman of the Tramways Committee, arrived at the Northumberland tram shed around 3:30pm and the engine was already there, as was the driver, Thomas Roscoe. Apparently briefed that the automatic braking system appeared not to have averted the accident, he questioned Roscoe as to whether or not he had disabled it. Roscoe’s answer would not be revealed publicly until the final day of the inquest and conspiracy theorists might want to ponder if the Tramways Committee initially considered suppressing the information. As we shall see, the behaviour of the Huddersfield Corporation officials, including the Mayor, left a little to be desired under the circumstances.

The Lindley tramcar route was soon running again, as it was Market Day in Huddersfield and a large number of Lindley residents would be heading home, many perhaps oblivious to the accident. Reportedly, a Lookwood tramcar ran the Lindley route that evening.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, a stream of concerned relatives arrived at the Infirmary, anxious for news of their loved ones.

David Bertenshaw Taylor’s wife, Ellen, arrived sometime around 8:30pm and was told her husband had just died. She collapsed in shock and was conveyed by friends back to her house. The Chronicle speculated that she “could not realise to anything like the full extent the direful news which had been just communicated to her.”

line engraving of Huddersfield Infirmary by J. Shury (1831)
line engraving of Huddersfield Infirmary by J. Shury (1831)

In what was seen by some as highly disrespectful act, the planned concert by the Lindley Brass Band in St. George’s Square, just a stone’s throw the crash site, went ahead that evening. The bandmaster, Joe Kaye, later wrote to the Chronicle to explain that they had no idea of the severity of the accident and would have cancelled the concert out of respect had they been made aware. Almost certainly, the band members would have known some of the injured and dead.

During the evening, Councillor Haigh convened an emergency meeting of the Tramways Committee in private. We can only speculate as to what was discussed at the meeting, but possibly Haigh repeated what driver Roscoe had told him and they then considered what their options would be depending on the various verdicts the jury might reach.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Lindley Tramcar Overturned, Five Deaths“.

ink drawing of the area where the crash occurred which appeared in the Illustrated London News (1883)
ink drawing of the area where the crash occurred from the Illustrated London News (1883)

Wednesday 4 July 1883

According to the Chronicle, passenger numbers were down on the tramcars that morning, although that simply might reflect that this was a normal day rather than the busy Market Day.

The stream of visitors to the Infirmary continued and included Councillor Haigh, Mr. R.S. Dugdale (Borough Surveyor and Engineer), and the Rev. J.W. Town (Vicar of Lindley). By now, Mr. Wilkinson, a representative of the engine manufacturer was in Huddersfield and also visited the injured.

Over in Salford, the Town Council met that morning and a question was asked if Alderman Harwood (Chairman of the Salford Tramways Committee) was aware of what had happened in Huddersfield. Perhaps Harwood guessed, but he correctly responded that he hoped it would be a warning to all of how important it was to ensure engines had proper brake power at all times.

With five people dead, an inquest was a necessity to establish if the deaths had been accidental or, if not, were any persons directly responsible for the deaths and should therefore face a charge of manslaughter. These days, of course, this would be a role for the police and Crown Prosecution Service, but in the 1880s the decision was left to a jury who considered the facts and reached their verdict.

During the afternoon, the inquest was convened under the District Country Coroner, 52-year-old William Barstow of Halifax. A jury was sworn in and comprised of the following individuals (indicative ages are shown in parentheses):

  1. David Brown (41) of Chapel Street
    founder of David Brown Engineering Limited in 1860
  2. John Burnley (45) of King Street
    linen draper and former Liberal Party candidate
  3. Thornton Cliffe (38) of Colne Road
    mechanical engineer and owner of an engine works
  4. George William Crosland (40) of New North Road
    iron merchant of Fixby
  5. John Crowther (54) of Greenhead Road
  6. James Drake (48) of New North Road
    woollen cloth merchants and member of the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce
  7. Edward Dyson (41) of New Street
    linen draper
  8. Fred Eastwood of New North Road
    director of the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company
  9. Allen Jackson (55) of John William Street
    painter and gilder, and local councillor in the 1870s
  10. Benjamin Jowett (58) of West Parade
  11. George Moxon (51) of Trinity Street
    coal merchant
  12. Mr. Radcliffe
    presumably Joseph Radcliffe (40), stone merchant of South Crosland
  13. Charles Henry Riley (37) of Henry Street
    joiner and builder, and member of the Board of Guardians
  14. Battye Royston (58) of East Parade
    co-founder of Kenworthy, Royston and Crossley Machine Works
  15. Eli Whitwam (37) of Alfred Street
    mechanical and consulting engineer

As well as the members of the jury, a number of individuals with a vested interest in the inquest were present on most (if not all) days, including:

  • Mr. G.L. Batley, representing the Huddersfield Corporation
  • John Eddison, vice-chairman of the Leeds Tramway Company
  • Councillor Armitage Haigh, the Chairman of the Huddersfield Tramways Committee
  • Mr. Wilkinson of Wigan, owner of the company who manufactured the engine
  • John Ward, the Chief Constable

The Coroner, Mr. Barstow, began by saying:

Before you proceed to view the bodies, I have in the first place to express my sincere sorrow and regret at the very unfortunate occurrence that has been the means of your being called here this afternoon, and I am sure you also regret this terrible calamity, the like of which, I should think, has never occurred, certainly in Huddersfield, and probably not in any other town in the kingdom. It is a most lamentable calamity, by which no less than five people lost their lives, and more than 20 people are more or less injured. Now, I am sure you wish to devote every attention you can to the cause which may have been the means of bringing about this sad occurrence. Your great attention is necessary for many reasons, and one is that the enquiry will assume a moat important character, not only from the number of persons killed and injured, but also from the fact that tramways are now being so much used in many parts of the kingdom, and I am sorry to say there have been accidents more or less since the institution of such means of locomotion. It is very desirable in the public interest and public safety that accidents of this nature should be thoroughly investigated, so as to prevent, if possible, any similar calamities in the future. All that can be done today is to take evidence of identification, and then have the enquiry adjourned to a future day. Now, I am not bound by law to inform any Government department of this matter, but I felt it my duty to give notice to the Board of Trade in order that the Board may, it they think fit, send down some person to be present at the enquiry. If they do so, no doubt it would be of great assistance to many on the jury.

By alerting the Board of Trade, Barstow was ensuring that, if the crash had been caused due a technical failure, this would be properly examined so that the lessons could be learned. The representative of the Board of Trade would need to decide if his inquest could be merged with Barstow’s, or if it needed to be held separately.

A short discussion then took place as to when the jury should view the engine in the shed on Northumberland Street and what, if anything, they would be able to learn from just looking at it. It was also debated as to whether or not Mr. Wilkinson should be allowed to accompany the jury members, in case he sought to influence them. At this point, Mr. Wilkinson firmly placed his foot in his mouth by stating that:

It is just a question of erroneous statements getting about, and I want to point out technical matters which the jury may not understand. There are scores of things about that engine that the most practical engineers in Huddersfield would not understand.

Mr. Radcliffe firmly rebuked him by reminding him that there were “plenty of good engineers on this jury” including, of course, David Brown! Radcliffe was also of the opinion that, if they didn’t go to view the engine that day, it might result in negative gossip amongst the townsfolk.

The jury then travelled to the Infirmary where they viewed the bodies and took statements from those who had formally identified the five dead passengers. In each case, they tried to ascertain if the deceased had been in good health prior to the accident, in order to be sure the crash had been the primary cause of death.

By now, it had been ascertained that the representative of the Board of Trade was planning to arrive the following Wednesday and the Coroner suggested that they should formally adjourn until then, subject to any of the injured dying before then. This seemed likely, as the House Surgeon had told them that two of the injured were “almost certain” to die.

At around 4pm, the jurors were still waiting for cabs to arrive to take them to view the engine and Barstow was busy signing burial certificates so that the five bodies could be released to relatives. Assistant House Surgeon, Mr. Prentice, came in and informed them that Mary Shaw had died a few minutes previously at around 3:50pm. A decision was then made to take evidence from Mary’s sister, Sarah Ann Pearson, and for her to formally identify the deceased.

Following this, and in the absence of Mr. Wilkinson, a juror said:

I want to know why Huddersfield engineers can’t understand this tram engine. I should like to know what sort of tram engine it is that no one understands it. If it an engine of that sort they had better take it back!

Assured that the Coroner had the power to ensure anyone who tried to interfere with the inquest would be removed, the inquest adjourned and the jury members travelled to the shed to view the engine and car.

At around 6pm, a Lindley tramcar departed St. George’s Square and the engine came off the rails just after the crash site. The driver placed sand on the rails to help with traction and used a crowbar to ease the engine back onto the track. It must have been a sobering few minutes for the passengers.

At around 8pm, Rowland Hall finally passed away. He had been terribly injured after being flung from the upper-deck of the tramcar into an iron lamppost and there had been no hope of recovery.

A journalist from the Chronicle enquired that evening into the condition of the other injured and was told that there had been little change. He was also told that three were still in a critical condition: Alice Brook, Joseph Halstead and Mary Ann Moore (who had lost her husband and infant daughter).

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: Latest Particulars, Two More Deaths“.

Thursday 5 July 1883

The death the previous evening of Rowland Hall necessitated that the inquest be reconvened and a meeting took place on Thursday afternoon, presumably at the Infirmary. Two jury members, Burnley and Eastwood, were absent due to the short notice.

The only witness called was Hall’s son-in-law, monument sculptor Charles Richard Garner, who stated that he had visited Hall four times at the Infirmary before he died. He reported that Hall had occasionally regained some semblance of consciousness but had not said anything that would be relevant to the inquest.

It was now known that the representative of the Board of Trade, Major General Hutchinson, would now be arriving later on that afternoon1 and a discussion took place as to whether they should meet with him. It was decided to reconvene at the Town Hall in order to find out if Hutchinson intended to order a separate inquest, as that might impact on their own inquiry’s ability to complete their work. They then viewed Rowland Hall’s body.

Later on that afternoon, the jurors met again in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, where they were eventually joined by others including the Mayor, Alderman Walker (who had assisted at the crash site), Councillor A. Haigh, Dr. Erson (who had been on the fateful tramcar), and Mr. Wilkinson with a solicitor (Mr. Ellis) now representing his firm.

The Coroner then joined them, accompanied by Major General Hutchinson, and announced they had reached a decision that Hutchinson would hold a separate inquest but that he would endeavour to “make his report as speedily as possible” so that the jurors could use it to aid them in their own deliberations. Hutchinson would also provide independent and impartial assistance to the jury members.

Barstow also stated it unlikely that the engine would re-enter service until both inquests had been completed. Rather tactlessly, the Mayor then tried to insist that, if the engine was found to be in working order, it should be allowed to go back into service — “it seems a pity to keep it idle all the time”. Juror Mr. Drake wisely stated that the “public are exceedingly alive to this matter, and for their sakes I think we should almost prefer that the engine did not work until after the termination of this inquiry.”

It was then decided that the engineers on the jury should accompany Major General Hutchinson on his inspection of the engine. The solicitor Ellis insisted that he and Mr. Wilkinson should be allowed to go with them, and this was agreed. Before they adjourned, the Mayor one again raised his desire to have the engine back in service as quickly as possible.

At the tram shed, Hutchinson requested that the engine’s boiler be primed. He then briefly left to begin his own inquiry by interviewing Thomas Laxton (Huddersfield Tramway Superintendent) as well as the driver and conductor of the tramcar. Upon his return to the shed, an attempt to move the engine was made but then abandoned as it was felt there was something mechanically wrong with it.

During all of this, the jury had deliberated with the Coroner and come to the decision to appoint an engineer of their own choice who would assist Hutchinson’s inquiry and write a separate report. This was to be Mr. Middleton Pratt, an engineer residing in Fixby.2

The inquest then adjourned for a week, giving Hutchinson time to make progress on his report.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: Another Inquest“.

Saturday 7 July 1883

The formal opening of the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition took place, with the Duke of Somerset in attendance.

The Chronicle reported:

Although the lamentable catastrophe which occurred here in the early part of the week has thrown quite a gloom over the town, yet hearty efforts were put forth yesterday to make today’s proceedings in connection with the opening of the Exhibition a great success. The small display of bunting, which a few days ago appeared scattered here and there, had much increased, and Westgate, St. George’s Square, the Market Place, and other portions of the town presented quite a gay appearance.

the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1883
the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1883

Tuesday 10 July 1883

The two engineers selected by Major General Hutchinson and the inquest jury — Arthur G. Evans of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company and Mr. Middleton Pratt — commenced their testing of the engine. It should be remembered that Hutchinson had previously attempted to run the engine to test it on 5 July but this had been abandoned. Observing their tests were Mr. Wilkinson, of the company who manufactured the engine, and “the superintendent”, who was presumably Thomas Laxton.

Evans and Pratt took the engine out on a test run as far as Fartown. They immediately experienced problems on the incline from the tram shed down onto North Gate — the driver took the corner onto North Gate so quickly that the automatic breaking system engaged itself. It was at Fartown they discovered the right-hand piston was “smashed to bits”. The engine was then returned to the shed on Northumberland Street.

Wednesday 11 July 1883

During the afternoon, Evans and Pratt, accompanied by Pratt’s colleague Joseph Hepworth, dismantled the failed piston and made a more detailed examination of the engine. They found small fragments of the piston in the exhaust box.

With hindsight, they should have done this detailed examination before the run to Fartown the previous day, as it was now impossible to say what state the piston had been in at the time of accident and how much further disintegration had happened during their test run.

Both engineers then wrote up separate reports, which were presented at the final day of the inquest.

A further set of tests, using Engine No.3 and Car No.4 on the Lindley line, were conducted under the supervision of Middleton Pratt early on 21 July. The newspaper reports don’t reveal why these took place or who instigated them, but they involved testing tramcar braking under a number of different scenarios. As Pratt was selected by the inquest jury, perhaps he carried out the tests at their request, or perhaps the Tramways Committee requested them?

Thursday 12 July 1883

The inquest resumed on Thursday morning and took place in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall. By now, Roscoe, the engine driver, had legal representation (Barker, Sons, and Yeoman who where based in the Estate Buildings near where the crash occurred) and other solicitors where in attendance representing the bereaved and injured.

The day was taken up with witness statements and the Coroner announced that it was the jury’s wish for witnesses not to remain in the room, except for when they were giving evidence. This provoked a certain amount of discussion and it was agreed that “the scientific witnesses, the maker of the engine, and the engine driver” could remain throughout.

Margaret Miller testified that she travelled on the tramcar between Marsh and near Greenhead Road and noticed nothing unusual. She claimed that when she alighted, the tram had come to a full stop. She wasn’t able to say if the brakes of the car were applied or not.

George North, a butcher of Lindley, testified that he saw the tramcar go past and that he believed the car’s brakes were applied as the wheels were skidding (“I thought if it had been night there would have been a lot of sparks”). He recognised several of the passengers on the upper-deck, including Rowland Hall and Benjamin Brook. He saw the tramcar slow down near South Street and he thought two people alighted. Curiously, he denied that the tramcar had stopped where Margaret Miller had claimed she had alighted.

Dr. W.R. Erson was called next and he gave a detailed account of the journey from Lindley. He stated that from Marsh onwards, he felt that the tramcar was “going at a speed which I considered unsafe” and that he had said as much to those around him. He stated that he had kept a close eye on the driver and, close to New North Street when the tramcar had noticeably picked up speed, he felt sure that the driver had lost control — he was able to identify now that the lever he’d seen Roscoe pull was to reverse the engine, but it appeared to move without resistance and that this had seemingly surprised the driver.

At this point, he stated that got up and calmly (so as not to “create a panic”) walked to the back of the car where he noticed Alfred Crosland near to the brake handle but could see no sign of the conductor. By now, the tramcar was “going at a very rapid rate” and he took the opportunity to jump off the rear platform and “with difficulty retained my feet”. As the tramcar passed St. George’s Street, which was only a short distance from the corner the tramcar overturned on, he saw Joseph Wilson jump off. However, if didn’t see Alfred Crosland jump off. The tramcar passed out of his sight around the corner onto Railway Street and he heard the crash. Running around the corner, he saw passengers lying on the ground and began assisting the injured.

Although Dr. Erson recalled Margaret Miller alighting, he did not notice anyone getting off near South Street, which implies the men seen by George North jumped off when they realised the driver wasn’t going to slow down for them to get off.

The inquest then adjourned for lunch.

Alfred Crosland then gave evidence. He had boarded in Marsh and remained stood near the back of the lower-deck of the car throughout the journey, near to the brake handle. He stated that the tramcar had sped up alarmingly (“a frightful speed”) as they entered West Parade and that he saw Joseph Wilson, Wright Firth, and Dr. Erson jump off.

Crosland then went on to describe how he had grabbed the brake after the car began to wobble from side to side, causing some of the passengers to scream. He thought he did this as they passed the Crown Hotel — which was situated on the junction with Upper Head Row where West Parade became West Gate. He turned the brake several times to the right, but felt no decrease in speed. It was here that he jumped off himself, grazing his knees and elbows.

It seems there was then some discussion about whether or not Crosland had released the brake, rather than applying it, but Major General Hutchinson stated that “it was impossible for the witness to turn the brake the wrong way […] because there is a catch at the bottom which would prevent [it]”. If the jury were to return a verdict of manslaughter, they would need to be sure that Crosland hadn’t unwittingly contributed to the crash by releasing the car’s brake.

The next witness was John Henry Sterry, a wholesale clothier whose shop was on the corner of Westgate and Railway Street. From his vantage point on the first floor, looking up Westgate, he feared the tramcar might jump the rails and plough into his shop. He saw the tramcar take the corner, the car tip to the right onto its side wheels (“for 15 or 20 yards”) and then tumble over. He ran outside and took part in giving aid to the injured, bringing some of them into his shop.

Sterry estimated he had seen previous tramcars take the corner at six to eight miles an hour (which would be almost twice the speed it had been designed for) and that the fatal tramcar was travelling “not less than 16 miles an hour”. He could not say if the brakes were being applied, but felt that they probably weren’t.

John Rowe testified that he had been walking along Railway Street on the opposite side to Mr. Sterry’s shop when he “heard the bell of the tram-engine ringing very fast”. He witnessed the tramcar take the corner and the car topple, throwing passengers onto the ground. After giving aid, he spoke to the driver and conductor, saying “I thought you would have had break power enough to have stopped [the tramcar] anywhere” and was left with the impression that the car’s brakes had not been applied as when it was moved into St. George’s Square, he could see the car’s wheels rotating and saw no-one release the brake.

Despite the Chief Constable saying that he had four more witnesses, the inquest was adjourned until the following day, when the crucial scientific evidence would be presented.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Adjourned Inquest“.

Friday 13 July 1883

The fourth day of the inquest began with a witness statement by Joseph Theophilus Green, stationmaster of Huddersfield Railway Station. He had been standing lower down Railway Street, saw the tramcar take the corner and the car topple, and estimated the time of the crash as being 2:56pm. In his opinion — based on 20 years of working on the railways — the tramcar had been travelling at around 11 miles per hour coming around the corner and that neither the engine brakes or the car brake were being applied. Like Mr. Sterry, he too had seen tramcars coming down Westgate at around 8 miles per hour, which he regarded as “too fast”.

When he reached the crash site, he was in time to hear someone ask the driver, “Whatever have you been doing?” Roscoe had pointed to one of the cylinders and said it was “out of order”, which gave Green the impression a piston had failed and so “the engine would be less under the control of the driver”.

The tramcar conductor, Henry Sawyer, then gave his evidence after being cautioned by the coroner — if the jury decided that Sawyer’s actions had contributed in any way to the crash, the evidence could be used in court.

Sawyer’s testimony rambled slightly, and was interrupted by a break for lunch, but it can be distilled down to the following:

  • He had only recently started in the job of conductor had only been given basic verbal instructions on what to do and “had not [been given] any directions as to where to collect the fares, when to apply the brakes, nor how to perform my duties”. Nor was he told that he should enforce strict limit of 34 passengers on the tramcar (16 on the lower-deck and 18 on the upper-deck), but had been told not to allow anyone to sit on the steps between the decks.
  • He had seen the driver Roscoe come out of the Fleece Inn in Lindley before they departed.
  • He was of the habit of applying the car brake on the latter section of the route, likely as they passed Greenhead Park, and stated that he had done so on the day of the accident — this then accounted for George North being of the opinion the wheels were skidding when he saw the tramcar pass by him. He did not touch, or go near, the brakes after that.
  • As they approached the South Street junction, he rang his bell as he saw passengers wanted to get off (these would be the two men seen alighting by George North) but the driver did not slow the engine. Sawyer was of the opinion the engine had in fact begun to speed up.
  • Following the accident, he was on the car when it was moved down to the shed on Northumberland Street. He stated that he applied the car brake, “but notwithstanding that I could not stop [the car] at the depot. At [that] time there were only two people in the car — a constable and myself.”
  • He had previously noticed that the automatic braking system would engage when they were making the trip from Huddersfield up to Lindley, but had never noticed it on the downhill trip back to Huddersfield. This implies that Roscoe was in the habit of disabling it.

The jury then tried to get to the bottom of whether or not tramway crews were issued with formal written rules and instructions for their job. Sawyer stated that he’d been given a set of instructions on the Monday after the accident by Albert Clough (a clerk in the tramways department), which he’d passed on to the solicitor representing the Taylor family. It emerged that these had been issued in October 1881 under the previous Mayor (Alderman Thomas Denham) and had not been previously circulated to tramcar employees as the Committee were currently considering their own set of instructions which were still in draft.

Reading between the lines, one is left with the impression that the Tramways Committee, which met in private on the evening of the day of the accident, were seeking to limit their potential liability. Aware that staff were working without any formal guidelines whatsoever, it would seem that Clough was instructed to give Sawyer the 1881 set, which was the only ones they had which had been signed off by a Mayor. The current Mayor and Mr. Batley, the Town Clerk, seemed to be unaware this had happened, and stated it was a mystery to them both how Sawyer had ended up with them.

The superintendent of the tramways, Thomas Laxton, then gave evidence. He described how the engine had undergone test runs prior to entering service. During these, it was noticed that the piston heads seemed to be thumping against the cylinder covers and he had instructed a fitter from the engine company to make suitable adjustments. He attended a further test run on 8 June and was happy that the issue with the pistons had been resolved. The engine went into service the following day.

Laxton then contradicted some of the earlier evidence by stating that all drivers and conductors were issued with written instructions.

After the accident, he had gone to the tram shed to see the engine and stated that he had caught Roscoe attempting to change the settings of the valves which operated the automatic brakes. He then examined the values and found one was fully closed and the other partially closed. Curiously, Laxton made no mention of Roscoe admitting verbally that he had disabled the automatic brakes. He had, however, suspected some of the drivers of doing so and had previously made attempts to catch them red-handed (or rather, closed-valved).

Laxton then went on to state that he had raised various concerns about the safety of the engines and the Lindley route to both the engine manufacturer and the Borough Surveyor, Mr. Dugdale. In particular, that the engines should be fitted with an independent braking system, separate to the steam-powered one, and that the corner where the crash occurred was unsafe due to the low cant of the rails — in fact Laxton stated that he’d plumbed that corner whilst on a tramcar and found the car leaned outwards, rather than inwards. He claimed that Mr. Dugdale had told him to “mind his own business”.

At this point in the proceedings, Major General Hutchinson had to leave and, as he was not able to return to Huddersfield until the following Friday, the Coroner adjourned the inquest for a full week.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Laxton’s evidence, which implied that officials (particularly Dugdale) had been warned about the safety of the line, caused a stir in the press.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident in Huddersfield: The Adjourned Inquest“.

Saturday 21 July 1883

Prior to final day of the inquest into the deaths of the seven passengers starting, a series of early morning tests were carried out on the Lindley route under Pratt’s supervision (possibly with Evans and others in attendance, but possibly not). These used a different engine (No. 3) and car to the one that crashed and were designed to test how the brakes operated under a variety of scenarios:

  1. The first run was down Trinity Street and the driver attempted to run the engine as fast as possible. The automatic braking system engaged and the driver then attempted to bring the tramcar to a full stop, which he succeeded in doing after about 30 yards.
  2. In the second test run, steam was shut off from the engine (presumably to the steam-powered breaks) and the driver attempted to stop the tramcar by throwing the engine into reverse. This resulted in the tramcar (presumably sliding somewhat down the incline) at around 3 miles an hour.
  3. The third test involved “holding the reversing lever against the automatic action” which resulted in the engine running out of control.3
  4. The fourth was “the automatic action, only without applying any of the breaks”, which brought the tramcar to a slow crawl.
  5. The firth test was carried out at the junction with Greenhead Road and the driver was able to stop the tramcar after 25 yards purely by reversing the engine.
  6. The sixth test, which would likely have alarmed anyone passing by, involved running at full speed down West Parade so that the automatic brakes applied themselves. This was a repeat of the first test, but on a more severe gradient.
  7. As a final test, with the tramcar standing still, Pratt applied the car brake and “asked the driver to put his steam break on the car as forcibly as possible”. This seems to have been done to test if the driver applying his brakes would cause the car brake handle to release — it didn’t.

With these tests completed, the final day of the inquest began. The long list of attendees reported in the Chronicle indicates that the Council Chambers would likely have been full.

Middleton Pratt began by verbally giving his written report, his conclusions and his recommendations:

As requested, with Mr. Evans I inspected the No. 2 engine, at the engine shed, on July l0th, the engine that met with the accident. Joseph Hepworth, a fitter in my employ, attended to do the necessary work. Firstly, the slide valve of the right-hand cylinder was found to have moved on its spindle (when the engine was at top centre the port was about wide open). Secondly, after the adjustment of the slide valve the engine was run to Fartown and back. Its work was such that it was decided to have the cylinder lids up. On this being done the right-hand piston was found smashed to bits and the piston rod bent. Thirdly, the governor and automatic brakes were tried on the run to Fartown three or four times, and found to act fairly well at about 8 1/2 miles per hour. It occurring to me that the valve spindle would probably be required at the enquiry, I attended at the engine shed on the afternoon of the 11th inst., with my man, Joseph Hepworth. We then removed the valve spindle of the right-hand engine, so that it could be produced at the inquest if called for. It also occurred to me to examine the inside of the exhaust box connected with the damaged engine. I there found a considerable number of bits of the broken piston which had been carried out of the cylinder by the exhaust and deposited in the exhaust box. That is my report on the facts. The opinion I formed on the foregoing — It must be borne in mind that the automatic brake can be shut off by the driver by valves on the steam pipes connections, thus rendering the thing useless. I am of opinion that the automatic brake was shut off (or inoperative from other causes, which would amount to the same thing), the driver relying on reversing his engine and the car brakes to control the speed. The piston having smashed, or the slide valve becoming deranged, or both, when the driver found the speed too high and reversed the engine it would be unable to answer him, as one cylinder was quite useless, and the other not sufficient to control the engine by itself, leaving the car out of the question. That one cylinder when reversed cannot control the engine on such an incline as the bottom of Northumberland Street, which is one in 22.8, was proved on the trial run to Fartown on the 10th. Descending Northumberland Street from the depot, the speed accelerated, and the engine went round the curve into Northgate at a speed sufficient to bring the automatic brake on. On landing in Northgate, the driver, on being spoken to by Mr. Evans as to why he came round the curve at that speed, replied, “I could not hold her.” I personally saw him try to do that with his reversing lever. It is evident the engine being in this state when the accident happened that in descending Westgate the car would have to assist in pulling the engine up, and I am very doubtful, in the absence of actual experiment, whether the car brakes if on were powerful enough for the car alone, without having the engine dragging in addition. Suggestions for prevention :— A powerful screw hand brake, to he fitted to each engine; the governor and all connections, and the automatic brake, to be constructed so as to be outside the control of the driver ; the pistons and side valve connections to be constructed in a more substantial and generally approved manner. The slide valve of the steam car brake is attached in the same manner as the engine slide valve. This also ought to be fitted in a more positive manner, and the car hand brake to have a spring to the catch.

In his opinion, it would not normally be possible to break a piston simply by going too fast and that the automatic braking system in itself was sufficient to have reduced the speed of a tramcar so that the accident would not have happened, even if the car brakes had not been applied. He also believed that, had the second piston not failed, the driver would have been able to control the engine purely with the reversing lever.

Mr. Ellis, the solicitor for the engine manufacturer, then questioned Pratt further and the engineer repeated his conviction that the action of the automatic braking system would have been sufficient to have averted the accident. However, he was critical of the choice of materials used for the pistons — to his mind, cast iron should have been used instead of the cheaper phosphor-bronze (an alloy of copper and tin).

Due to the damage, he wasn’t able to give a definite reason as to why the piston failed, but was of the opinion the failure had occurred at the top of piston (which presumably raised the possibility it was damaged during the initial running tests of which Thomas Laxton has spoken of, in which the piston ends were thumping against the cylinder heads).

Finally, he gave his opinion that had the engine been fitted with an independent screw brake, the driver would have been able to bring the engine under control on the day of the accident.

Dr. James Richardson, House Surgeon at the Huddersfield Infirmary, was then called and he described the causes of death for each of the seven victims, which had included a post mortem examination of at least four.

  1. Annie Moore — Was dead on arrival at the Infirmary. Severely bruised on the head and face, but no fractures. Post-mortem revealed a “quantity of effused blood on the inside of the scalp pressing on the brain”.
  2. Isabella Woodhouse — Died at 5pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until her death. Two inch long wound on back of head. No post-mortem examination took place, but likely cause of death of “severe brain injuries”.
  3. Sarah Clegg — Died at 7:45pm on 3 July. Partially conscious when admitted. Post-mortem examination revealed “extensive fracture at the base of skull”, “severe lacerations of the brain”, and “a good deal of effused blood pressing on the brain”.
  4. Fred Moore — Died at 8pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until his death. Post-mortem examination revealed fracture at base of skull, multiple lacerations to the brain and a “quantity of effused blood pressing on the brain”.
  5. David Bertenshaw Taylor — Died at 8:20pm on 3 July. Was unconscious until his death, which was caused by fracture at the base of skull and severe injury to the brain.
  6. Mary Shaw — Died around 4pm on 4 July. Was unconscious until her death. 5 inch long scalp wound. No specific cause of death was given.
  7. Rowland Hall — Died around 7:30pm on 4 July. Partially conscious when admitted. Large wound “on the forehead over right eye” with “depressed fracture of the frontal bone connected with wound” and multiple fractured ribs (sustained when he was thrown against an iron lamppost). Immediate cause of death being “injury to the brain”.

Passenger William Herbert Sykes then gave evidence. He had been travelling on the upper-deck and was able to say that all the seats were occupied and at least 4 passengers were stood up just prior to the accident.

The inquest then broke for luncheon.

In the afternoon, Arthur G. Evans of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company read his report:

I have the honour to report for your information that in accordance with your request I have made a careful investigation into the causes which led to the recent most lamentable tramcar accident at Huddersfield. The circumstances are briefly these :— On July 3rd the 2:30 p.m. car from Lindley to Huddersfield, worked by engine No. 2, seems to have travelled all right and to have been under perfect control until it arrived in the neighbourhood of South Street, some 360 yards from the spot where the accident occurred. At this point, where the line is on a falling gradient of one in 18, the conductor signalled the driver to pull up to allow a passenger to alight, but this the latter failed to do, and the engine and car appear to have run down the street at a constantly accelerating speed, and the efforts of the conductor and driver to arrest its progress had no effect, the consequences being that on the curve turning from Westgate

in Railway Street the car upset with the fatal results reported. The car is provided with a brake which can be worked by the guard by hand or by the driver by means of a steam cylinder on the engine. The engine is provided with automatic governor or speed regulator, the object of which is to check the speed of the engine and to keep it within safe and controllable limits. The governor is brought into play at a speed not greater than 10 miles an hour, and its effect is to reverse the engine and actuate a steam brake on the engine wheels. There is no independent brake on the engine wheels under the control of the driver, the operation of stopping the car and engine being ordinarily effected by means of the brake on the car and the reversing of the engine by the driver. The automatic governor is provided with stopcocks, which in their working and normal position should be open for the passage of steam and secured with a chain and padlock. On Thursday last I made an inspection of the car and found the brake in good working order. The engine was next looked over, and it was subsequently steamed and an attempt made to run it out on the roads for trial, but owing to a defect in the machinery, it was found necessary to put back into the shed and abandon further investigation for the day. As arranged, I met Mr. Mlddleton Pratt yesterday, and a very careful and searching examination of the engine was made. We first directed our attention to the slide valves of the engine, the right hand one of which was found displaced, and after that was made right steam was got up, and we took a run as far as Fartown. The engine was run up to its maximum speed several times to test the governor, and it was found to act perfectly well at a speed of from eight to nine miles an hour, but the retardation when the governor was in action was not at all what it should have been. In consequence of this, and the fact that the engine did not work satisfactorily in other respects, we decided to return to the shed and make a further examination. We next turned our attention to the pistons, the left hand one of which we found in good order, but the right hand one was entirely destroyed, the metal being broken up into small pieces, and the piston rod loose. The result of our investigations was to show that in consequence of the failure of the right hand piston the engine was deprived of one half of its retarding force when reversed, and the amount of other available brake power was not sufficient to stop the engine and car under the circumstances. The slide valve was probably moved out of its proper position subsequently to and in consequence of the failure of the piston, and in my opinion it had no bearing on the accident. The cause of the failure of the piston is difficult to assign in consequence of its being so completely destroyed, but I may state that there is nothing peculiar in its construction or any apparent defect to account for it; but I think it possible that the set screw used for the purpose of holding the two halves of the piston together worked loose and got between the piston and cover, thus causing the former on its upwards stroke to receive a violent blow which fractured it. I should further mention that one of the steam brake cylinders had the small release cock missing, which would somewhat detract from the efficiency of the engine brake. From the above circumstances I am of opinion that in descending the incline in West Parade the right hand piston of the engine broke either at the time the engine and car became unmanageable or at some point higher up the street ; that the speed of the engine was such that, though the car brake was applied and in good working order, and the engine reversed, it could not be controlled, and the engine entered the curve so fast that the car overturned. I think that had the piston not broken the speed would have been reduced to such a point that the curve would have been traversed in safety even if the engine and car had not been stopped altogether, and I am further strongly of opinion that had the automatic governor worked, the speed would not have reached the point it appears to have done, but would have been checked by the steam brake on the engine and the reversing of the machinery, even though crippled to the extent of one-half by the failure of the piston, and the result would have been that the velocity of the car would not have been sufficient to have overturned it. I am not prepared to say why the governor did not act, but the stop cooks do not appear to have been locked up, and from the working of the governor since I should say that that they were closed at the time of the accident and rendered the governor inoperative. I further think that the driver showed a want of resource in not opening the sand box valves with which his engine ia provided, the effect of which would have been most beneficial in helping to retard the car. I think it highly desirable that tramway engines should be fitted with brakes on the engine wheels capable of being applied by the driver independently of reversing the engine ; and also that the governor steam stop valves should be out of the control of all persons except those immediately responsible for their maintenance and good order. Every assistance was afforded me in making the investigations both by the superintendents of the tramways and by Mr. Wilkinson, the maker of the engine.

After some follow-on questions, the Borough Surveyor, Mr. Dugdale, was called to give evidence. Presumably aware of the stir Laxton’s evidence had created the week before, he was quick to point out that, although he had been responsible for the laying out of the track, including the curve where the accident happened, he had inherited the tramway plans from his predecessor.

He then went on to strenuously deny that Mr. Laxton had ever raised concerns to him about the cant of the track on that corner, or that he then told him to “mind his own business” except in relation to a discussion of the curve leading to the tram shed. Mr. Laxton’s solicitor, Mr. D.F.E. Sykes then pressed him on this topic, which seemed to fluster Mr. Dugdale, who gave a series of evasive (and at times slightly surreal) answers as to what was Laxton’s business to report and what wasn’t.

Then it is no part of his [i.e. Laxton’s] business to study the curves?
— Certainly not.
Well, whose business is it if it is not the business of the superintendent of the tramways?
— It is the business of the engineer [i.e. Dugdale] laying down the lines.
Then is the superintendent to know nothing at all about the curves?
— It is no part of his business.
You did not like his mentioning to you about the line in the shed?
— I did not consider it proper.
You did not consider it part of his duty at all to say what he said?
— No, I don’t think so.
But what was he to do?
— Report it to the [Tramways] Committee if he liked.
But why not to you?
— He could report it to me if he liked.
But if he found them out of order?
— I say he might do what he pleased.
But would it be proper to report it to you?
— He could please himself.
But I want to know what he was to do?
— He could please himself.
But was it part of your business to receive such reports?
— That is my business.
Will you please tell us what is your business?
— No, I shall not, because it is my business.
Well, at any rate you considered it no part of his business?
— No.
What was he to do, was he to hold to his tongue?
— He could please himself.

Annie Crosland of 30 West Parade was then called to give evidence. She stated that she heard the tramcar approaching and went to her door. As the tramcar passed by, she heard a loud “crack” coming from the engine, after which the tramcar appeared to speed up. The unstated implication was that this was the sound of the piston failing.

At this point in the proceedings it is worth considering the position of Huddersfield Corporation’s Tramways Commission. The town was the first local authority to implement their own tramcar system and it was important that it be seen to be a success. In meetings and on the letters pages of the local newspapers, concerns had been raised that the hilly terrain was unsuitable for powered tramcars — the first major test of the Fartown to Lockwood line in 1882 had come to an embarrassing stop half way up Chapel Hill, although, in fairness, someone had accidentally left the car brake on!

In the private meeting held by the Commission on the evening of the accident, when it was apparently known the engine driver had run the ill-fated service with the emergency brakes disabled, they surely must have discussed what they could do in terms of damage limitation, particularly if the finger of blame was pointed at the Corporation. Would they be blamed for not ensuring the tramway crews were properly trained? Would they be blamed for not ensuring the corner where the crashed happened was built to a safer specification? Where the engines they had spent so much money on not fit for purpose as they didn’t have an independent brake system? Would the public lose confidence in the tramway system that was only a few months old?

Surely also on their minds was the formal opening of the Huddersfield Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, which took place four days after the accident. It was anticipated that the exhibition would draw thousands of visitors to Huddersfield.

We can only speculate what, if anything, kept the Chairman of the Commission, Councillor Armitage Haigh, awake at night. However, on what was expected to be the final day of the inquest, the finger of blame was now pointing towards a rogue driver who disobeyed strict verbal orders and a mechanical failure which could be blamed on the engine manufacturer. Perhaps this, along with Mr. Dugdale’s earlier poor performance, is what prompted him to approach the foreman of the jury, perhaps during the lunch break, to tell him what Roscoe had said to him on the evening of the accident.

With Annie Crosland’s testimony completed, the jury expressed an “earnest wish” that Councillor Haigh be called as a witness, as they wished to ask him a “very important” question regarding the driver, Roscoe. This appears to have been against procedure, presumably as the Coroner was not aware in advance, and a short deliberation took place with the Town Clerk before the Councillor. According to the Chronicle, Haigh said:

About half an hour after the accident, as soon as we could get down to the shed, I asked Roscoe, the driver, about the valves. Alderman Henry Hirst, Laxton, the superintendent, and Roscoe were present. I asked Roscoe if he had shut the valves which applied steam to the automatic brake, I don’t remember Laxton asking anything. Roscoe evaded the question for a time and then acknowledged that he had closed one valve. Then I asked him again if he had closed the other, and he said he had partially closed it. I asked the question, and Mr. Laxton did not, in my hearing, ask any question relating to the valves, or either of them.

The solicitors present then pushed Haigh with further questions, trying to ascertain the exact wording Roscoe used, although the Councillor seemed to be a little unsure. Haigh also stated that he had previously given this information to Mr. Wilkinson, the representative of the company who manufactured the engine, who was of the opinion that the accident would not have occurred if the automatic brakes were working, even taking into account the failed piston.

If Haigh was telling the truth, it seems odd that Laxton didn’t mention that Roscoe had verbally admitted to disabling the automatic braking system when he gave his testimony and that Haigh seemingly left it until the last possible moment to present this vital information to the jury. The disabling of the braking system seems to have been picked up on very early in the investigation — apparently by Laxton, if no-one else — as a few newspapers reported the engine’s manufacturer claiming that the accident had been caused entirely by the driver and that there were no mechanical problems with the engine.

At the risk of appearing cynical, did Haigh seize a last-minute opportunity to pin the entire blame on Roscoe? Perhaps, after the crash, Haigh had instigated a background check into the engine driver and discovered that Roscoe had already spent time in prison.4

At this point, Major General Hutchinson intimated that he would have to leave. The jury had no questions for Hutchinson and he was thanked for the work he had done on behalf of the Board of Trade.

With no further questions to be asked, the Chronicle summarised the Coroner’s final advice to the jury:

The Coroner, addressing the jury, said they had arrived at last at that point in the enquiry when it would be necessary for them to consider what their verdict should be. Before doing this he should like to draw their attention to one or two special points to which he thought they would have to give their careful consideration in giving their verdict. A great and important question arose, viz., from what cause or circumstance did the tramcar fall over ? and secondly, was it an accidental occurrence or was any person criminally responsible for the deaths of the deceased persons or any of them ? He then detailed the circumstances attending the fatal journey of the tramcar, as detailed by the witnesses, in the course of which he said that much had, no doubt, been said outside that Court of the conduct of Mr. Alfred Crosland on the journey just before the disaster, but he thought they must really come to this conclusion, that whatever Mr. Crosland did to the brake had no effect either in increasing or reducing the speed, and did not in any way contribute to the catastrophe. In their deliberations they would have to consider the cause of the engine becoming out of the control of the driver, as it undoubtedly did somewhere on the journey, and whether the speed exceeded nine miles an hour, and if so why did not the automatic brake come into action. If their opinion was that the speed did exceed that which he had stated, the reason why the automatic brake did not act might be explained by the very important and startling evidence given as to the closing wholly of one of the valves, and partially of the other through which the steam passed to work the brake. The Coroner then said that they should not bring in a verdict of criminal responsibility for a more error of judgement, a slight neglect of duty, or any little mishap that might happen, but they would have to be satisfied that there was a very substantial amount of gross negligence before putting a man on his trial for what would virtually be manslaughter. They would have to return one of three verdicts, either that the disaster was a purely accidental occurrence, without any blame whatever to anybody ; or secondly, that it was an accidental occurrence with blame attaching to someone, but such blame does not amount to criminal negligence ; or thirdly, a verdict of manslaughter against any person or persons they might think responsible. Another thing they might devote their attention to might be whether it was a proper thing that the terminus of an important tram route should be a public-house, and also whether they thought it desirable that an independent brake should be applied to tramway locomotives. He was sure from the attention they had given to the whole of the voluminous evidence that had been adduced that their verdict would not be given without having their most earnest attention and consideration.

The jury then retired for around three hours before returning with their verdict and recommendations:

(1) We find that the deceased persons, Isabella Woodhouse and others, came to their death from the falling over of the tramcar when running at an excessive speed, consequent upon the driver having lost control of his engine through the breaking of one of the pistons, thereby preventing him from effectively applying the reversing motion.

(2) That we severely censure the driver for having, in disobedience to orders, closed one entirely, and the other partly, of the valves, admitting steam into the automatic brake, thereby preventing any chance it might otherwise have had of coming into action.

(3) We recommend that there should be an independent hand screw brake on each engine — and also some means adopted for more securely preventing any tampering with the automatic brake.

(4) Believing that it is both consistent with the public convenience and necessary for the public safety, we recommend that the town terminus of both the Lindley and Edgerton tram-services shall be upon a double line of rails in Temple Street, thus avoiding their converging at a sharp angle and at the foot of steep gradients upon the single line of rails now laid down there — an arrangement in our judgement fraught with certain and serious disaster in the future. By this means the dangers attending both the sharp curve into Railway Street, where the late accident took place, and also the one in the Square would be avoided.

(5) We regard with much satisfaction the proved and manifest increased caution and decreased speed with which the existing tram services have been conducted since the recent catastrophe, and we desire to record our decided conviction that in a town like Huddersfield, where the gradients are severe, the curves sharp, and the streets in many places narrow and often crowded, it will be found impossible to continue a higher maximum rate of speed than that of eight miles an hour with that security which is absolutely necessary, not alone for the safety of the tram service, but for that of the ordinary street traffic itself.

(6) Fully sharing as we do the deep and widespread feeling of regret at this most deplorable calamity, we cannot separate without tendering our sincere sympathy to the relatives of the unfortunate deceased, as also our best wishes for the speedy and satisfactory recovery of the surviving sufferers.

With the verdict given, Roscoe would not stand trial for manslaughter. He continued to work an engine driver or operator for the rest of his life, although presumably not on the tramways of Huddersfield. By 1891, he was a locomotive driver living in Fartown and in 1901, the year he died, he was operating a stationary engine and living in Mirfield.

The day’s events were covered by the issue of the Huddersfield Chronicle published the following day in an article titled “The Fearful Tramcar Accident at Huddersfield: Conclusion of the Inquest, The Verdict“.


As for the jury’s recommendations, according to Roy Brook, the only change made by the Tramways Committee was that all Edgerton and Lindley tramcars had to come to a full stop on West Gate in order for all passengers to alight. The empty tramcar would then proceed around the corner onto Railway Street and into St. George’s Square to pick up passengers for the return journey.5

However, contemporary newspaper reports to indicate that the Town Council did approve independent brakes to be fitted to all engines and that resolved that all engines should be adapted so that the automatic brakes would engage at 8 miles per hour. Wilkinsons of Wigan also reportedly offered to “affix to each engine an instrument which would effecutally prevent the driver from tampering with or closing the valves admitting steam to the automatic brakes.”6

In other ways, safety rules were more strictly enforced on the tramways of Huddersfield, as evidenced from a Borough Police Court article from the end of August in which conductor Henry Sawyer remonstrated with a passenger on the upper deck of the car who refused to sit down.

The Town Council also voted to transfer a sum of 50 guineas to the Huddersfield Infirmary “in consideration of the efficient services of the medical and nursing staff on the occasion of the accident”.

It seems the relatives of the seven who died were awarded some compensation, but an 1886 article implies it wasn’t much. Benjamin Clegg, whose wife Sarah died in the accident, seems to have harboured a grudge against a magistrate named Walker, who presumably was the one who decided how much Clegg received. On 8 August 1886, a drunken Clegg was apprehended after he threw stones through the windows of Walker’s house and then threatened to shoot the magistrate.7

The only other fatal steam tramcar incident occurred on 3 June 1891 when the boiler of Engine No.9 exploded whilst it was standing in the Longroyd Bridge passing loop. A young man named John Thomas Hirst, who was training to become a driver, had been accompanying the engine’s driver, Arthur Skyes, and both were found badly injured. Hirst died within minutes.8 The car had separated from the engine and rolled back towards Huddersfield but was brought to a halt by the conductor applying his brake.

The force of the explosion shattered windows in the vicinity and at least one residential property was set alight by a hot piece of shrapnel. Reportedly, a total of 14 peoples were injured. The jury at the inquest recorded a verdict of “accidental death” after being advised that a manslaughter prosecution was unlikely to succeed. Locally, it was felt much of the blame rested with the Corporation but it would be over 100 years before businesses and corporations could be tried for that crime.

Worthy of note is that, once again, Mr. Middleton Pratt was appointed as the independent expert witness by the jury.

Newspaper Articles

The accident and inquest were reported widely and a select of articles can be browsed online.

The Leeds Times (07/Jul/1883) article “Sad Catastrophe at Huddersfield“, though lengthy, contained a number of factual errors. In general, the Huddersfield Chronicle‘s coverage is the most in-depth and likely the most reliable, especially in respect of correctly naming the people involved.

Summary of Coverage by the Huddersfield Chronicle

For reference, here’s a brief description of what was covered by the local newspaper, along with links to scans of the article. Please note that the Saturday edition usually included reprints of articles published during the week.

Tuesday 3 July 1883

  • The newspaper had already gone to press by the time of the accident, no there as no coverage.

Wednesday 4 July 1883

Thursday 5 July 1883

Friday 6 July 1883

Saturday 7 July 1883

Tuesday 10 July 1883

Friday 13 July 1883

Saturday 14 July 1883

Monday 16 July 1883

Tuesday 17 July 1883

Monday 23 July 1883

  • The Fearful Tramcar Accident at Huddersfield: Conclusion of the Inquest, The Verdictfinal day of the inquest into the deaths, statements by the two engineers tasked with examining the engine, statement by surgeon James Richardson into the causes of the seven deaths, further eyewitness statements, contentious statements by the Borough Surveyor (Richard Dugdale), damning testimony by Councillor Armitage Haigh that the engine driver (Thomas Roscoe) admitted to disabling the automatic braking system, departure of Major General Hutchinson, final summing up, jury deliberations and their findings, and formal ending of the inquest

Tuesday 24 July 1883

Saturday 28 July 1883

30 July 1883

Saturday 4 August 1883

The 1883 Tramcar Tragedy – Part 1: The Accident

This otherwise unassuming stretch of Railway Street will be familiar to anyone who lives in Huddersfield but it was the scene of the town’s worst tramcar accident, just over 130 years ago…

Tramcars in Huddersfield

On Thursday 11 January 1883, Huddersfield became the first local authority in England to own and operate its own tramcar service. According to Discovering Old Huddersfield, the first service left “Fartown Bar for the terminus at Lockwood Bar travelling via Bradford Road, Northumberland Street, John William Street, Buxton Road and Chapel Hill.”

According to one newspaper report, the initial service ran from 9am with services from Fartown leaving on the hour, and setting off back from Lockwood on the half hour. The only accident reported on the very first day of operation was when a horse was spooked by tramcar and backed its cart into a lamppost, knocking it over.1

The tramcar network would eventually expand to reach out to many of the outlying districts, including routes to Crosland Moor, Honley, Longwood, Marsden, and even Brighouse and Elland.

In those early days, the services were nearly all steam-powered tramcars, with a small number of horse-driven trams used in the busy town centre, where it was felt the faster steam ones might be more dangerous to pedestrians.

The steam-powered tramcars comprised a single passenger carriage (referred to as the “car”) pulled along the rails by a small steam engine, as evidenced by this photograph a Berry Brow tramcar.


Very occasionally, a single engine would pull two cars, but this tended not to happen on the hilly streets of Huddersfield.

Some of the early cars were open-topped, which can hardly have been pleasant with the soot and smoke blowing into the passenger’s faces! For this reason, the upper-deck fare was initially 1 old pence, compared to the 2 old pence charged for travelling in the enclosed lower-deck.

At the start of the 1900s, steps were made to begin electrifying some of the routes and, by the 1930s, the rails were pulled up and electric trolleybuses started to replace the tramcars.


During the era of the steam tramcars, there were only two fatal accidents and we’ll look in-depth at the first — and most serious — in a three-part blog post.

However, before we look into the full details of the accident itself, it’s probably worth explaining a little more about how the steam tramcars of that era operated:

  • The engine could be put into forward or reverse and the driver could control the speed.
  • The braking system for the engine was steam-powered, with two valves that controlled the amount of steam passing through to the brakes. If these values were partially closed, the braking effect would be lessened, and if the valves were fully closed, the brakes would not operate at all.
  • As well as using the steam-powered brakes, a driver could slow the tramcar by either throwing the engine into reverse or by getting the conductor to apply the brake at the rear of the car. Although there was, at that time, no apparent consensus on the correct way to bring a tramcar to a halt to allow passengers to board and disembark, reportedly the most common method was a combination of putting the engine into reverse and applying the car brake, which required a degree of coordination between the driver and conductor, usually achieved via the ringing of a bell by the driver.
  • To limit the risk of an engine running out of control, they were fitted with an automatic braking system, approved by the Board of Trade. Should the speed exceed a set limit (about 9 miles per hour), this system would kick in, applying the steam-powered brakes and throwing the engine into reverse. The purpose of this system wasn’t necessarily to bring the tramcar to an immediate halt, but to slow the speed down to well below the limit. However, as noted above, the effect of the steam-powered brakes could be lessened by the closing of the relevant valves, thus making it possible for a driver to effectively disable the automatic braking system.
  • The conductor’s brake in the car wouldn’t be enough in itself to stop a tramcar going downhill if the engine was pulling forward — the car’s wheels would just skid along the metal rails — but it would likely help to slow the tramcar down.
  • Some engines were fitted with a separate independent braking system, which didn’t require steam. Unfortunately the engines initially purchased by the Huddersfield Corporation didn’t have this safety feature.

The Tramcar Tragedy of July 1883

The tramcar route from Lindley descended down an incline towards Huddersfield along Trinity Street, passing by the eastern edge of Greenhead Park, then along West Parade and West Gate (where it merged with the line to Edgerton), before turning sharp-left into Railway Street to enter the terminus loop in St. George’s Square, in front of the railway station.

The section running down West Gate and West Parade can be seen in this 1905 postcard and a photograph from the mid-1930s, from the trolleybus era:



The latter section of the route is shown in green on this 1890 map, with the corner into Railway Street shown in red.


Normally on a tight bend, the track would be laid so that the outer rail was raised much higher than the inner rail, to make the tramcar to lean into the corner. This difference in height was known then as the “superelevation” but these days tends to be called the “cant” of the track. In the case of the bend into Railway Street, the outer track was raised slightly, but not very much as there were concerns that a more elevated outer rail would impede other users of the road. According to the testimony of the Borough Surveyor, the cant of the track was calculated to allow for a loaded tramcar to take this particular corner safely at a speed of 4 miles per hour.

Since the line had opened in June 1883, concerns were raised that the tramcars were “in the habit of travelling at a high rate of speed”. It was reported that “the conductor had been spoken to about the danger attending such recklessness”.

On Tuesday 3 July 1883, the 2:30pm tramcar from Lindley departed around 5 minutes late for Huddersfield. The car was an open-top and it was being pulled by the Huddersfield Corporation’s Engine No.2, built by Wilkinson and Sons of Wigan.

The conductor was Henry Sawyer. Sawyer had previously worked for a local omnibus company, but had only recently begun his current job on the Lindley tramcar route in mid-June. He would later state that he had only received basic verbal training for his new job, and was left to figure out for himself when he should be collecting fares and when he should be manning the tramcar brake on the route. As the inquest would later hear, the formal book of rules and regulations for the Huddersfield tramcar operators was still at a draft stage, awaiting further discussion by the relevant Huddersfield Corporation committee.

The driver of the engine was Thomas Roscoe. According to Sawyer, Roscoe had been in the Fleece Inn, Lindley, prior to the start of the journey, although there was no evidence presented that Roscoe was intoxicated or incapable of operating the engine. However, the tramway superintendent, Thomas Frederick Laxton, had been keeping a close eye on the Roscoe as he was strongly of the opinion that some of the drivers were bypassing the automatic brake system by closing the connecting steam valves and Laxton hoped to catch one of them red-handed.

Before the tramcar set off, Roscoe had very likely nearly closed both values to disable the automatic braking system so that he could drive faster than 9 mph without the automatic braking system slowing him down. Perhaps he was concious that the tramcar was setting off late and wished to make up time, but his decision would ultimately cost the lives of seven people.

Tuesday was Market Day in Huddersfield and a large number of people were making their way to and from the town centre. Within a few stops, the tramcar was so full — it was later reported around 40 people were on the tramcar — that some passengers elected to sit on the steps between the upper and lower-decks, whilst others stood on the rear platform and on the upper-deck. The conductor reportedly shouted to the driver, “don’t stop again”, meaning not to pick up any more people until they reached Huddersfield, which drew a remark of “If we don’t [ever] stop again, I wonder where we’ll get to?!” from one passengers.

At the inquest, Sawyer would state that he’d usual applied the tramcar brake once they started descending Trinity Street, knowing that the remainder route was steeper. At least one witness (Lindley butcher George North) would corroborate this, stating that as the tramcar past him on the stretch of road next to Greenhead Park, he could see the wheels locked and skidding — “I thought that if it had been night there would have been a lot of sparks.” Prior to passing this witness, the tramcar had slowed to let off Margaret Miller, although most witnesses stated it did not come to a full stop.

The driver soon picked up speed again. One of the passengers, Lindley surgeon Dr. W.R. Erson, grew concerned that they were going too fast and voiced his fears to fellow passengers that one day there’d be an accident.

As the tramcar approached the bottom of Trinity Street, at least one passenger rang the bell to request the tram to stop. Witnesses differed on whether or not the tramcar actually slowed down but the passengers who wanted to alight apparently chose to jump off whilst the vehicle was still in motion. What everyone agreed on was that the tramcar certainly didn’t stop.

At the junction of Trinity Street and West Parade, the line curved to the left and, according to some witnesses, one side of the speeding tramcar lifted clear of the rails by several inches on the curve before righting itself again. West Parade and West Gate were the steepest part of the line with a gradient of 1 in 17 and it was now imperative that the driver now slowed the engine, especially given the sharp curve ahead onto Railway Street.

Dr. Erson had been keeping a close eye on the driver and noticed that he’d raised a lever and had apparently expected it to slow the engine — at the inquest, this was described as the means by which the driver could throw the engine into reverse. Unbeknown to Roscoe, a crucial piston had failed at some point in their journey and the lever now effectively did nothing. He frantically rang his bell to alert Sawyer to apply the brakes in the car, but the conductor was apparently unable to get to the brake.

At the inquest, it would be contentious as to what state the car brake was in as the tramcar ran down West Parade into West Gate, with Sawyer telling the press that he was of the opinion a passenger must have tampered with it. However, later tests showed that the car brakes alone would not be sufficient to slow the tramcar down, even if fully applied.

On the lower-deck, people were now standing up in alarm at the speed they were going. Dr. Erson, apparently calmly as so not to panic his fellow passengers, had made his way to the rear of the tramcar, as he was convinced the driver had no control whatsoever over the engine.

By now, most of the passengers had realised that their speed was continuing to increase unabated and some took the opportunity to jump off from the rear of the tramcar, including Dr. Erson.

Alfred Crosland of Oakes had got on when the tramcar was nearly full and had stood at the rear by the car brake for most of the journey — he would state that he saw no-one go near the brake. The sight of passengers jumping off behind him, coupled with the frantic ringing of the bell and the lack of a conductor, prompted him to seize the brake himself and he turned it, expecting to hear and feel the application of the brakes. However, he felt nothing. He later claimed that if he had felt anything, he would have valiantly remained at the brake — instead he took his chances and was named as the last person to jump off the rear of the car.

Of those who did jump off, some managed to stay upright, but most lost their footing and tumbled down the road, sustaining minor cuts, grazes and bruises. Dr. Erson had quickly regained his feet and, after checking that some of the others who’d jumped off weren’t badly injured, he ran down West Gate after the tramcar, perhaps fearing his medical skills would be much needed in a few moments.2

In the lower-deck, Emily Liversidge was cradling her nine-week-old baby and cried out, “My child! My child! How must I save my child?”. Mrs. Drayton, who was sat near to her, told her to “wrap it in your shawl”, which Emily did. Mrs. Drayton then took a tight hold of her own son, who was accompanying her.

On the upper deck, the passengers included Sarah Clegg, Mary Shaw, retired mill-owner Roland Hall, farmer William Herbert Sykes, 60-year-old Isabella Woodhouse and a young couple with their five-month-old daughter.

With the left-hand curve onto Railway Street now in sight, panic was gripping the remaining passengers and eyewitnesses claimed that some of those on the upper-deck were stood up. Other stated that the women (and some of the men) on both decks were screaming.

The engine took the corner onto Railway Street at a speed which was estimated to have been somewhere between 10 to 16 miles per hour3 and stayed on the rails due to its weight and low centre of gravity, but the more top-heavy car behind again tipped over to its right at an alarming angle, with the left-hand wheels well clear of the track.

According to witnesses, the car remained at this angle for a few seconds before finally toppling over and snapping the chain between the engine and car.

melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)
melodramatic front cover of the Illustrated Police News (14/Jul/1883)

With the car on its side, the engine finally stopped abruptly after a few feet, coming to rest next to the Estate Building, some 20 or so yards down Railway Street.

Those on the upper-deck were thrown forwards and sideways onto the pavement — in a neat line, according to one bystander. Rowland Hall, a retired manufacturer and mill owner, was flung bodily into an iron lamppost, sustaining injuries that would prove fatal. Young Annie Moore lay dying or dead on the pavement.

Those on the lower-deck were hurled around inside the car and Emily Liversedge’s baby lay buried until a pile of passengers. As the car had hit the ground, the left-hand side windows shattered above the passengers, showering them with shards of glass.

One witness described the crash site as resembling at miniature battlefield, strewn with casualties. Many of the passengers had suffered head injuries, whilst some were lucky to walk away with bruises and cuts.

Within moments of the crash, numerous bystanders had rushed to give their aid. Some helped move the injured away from the crash site and into the Estate Building. Others went to the fallen car, where they saw one woman on the road with her legs trapped underneath, and another woman’s legs sticking out of one of the broken windows. Fearing that there might be others trapped underneath who needed help, a crowd quickly heaved the car upright.

One of the first to reach the scene was Duke Fox, a highly successful shoddy manufacturer of Dewsbury. As a trained member of the St. John’s Ambulance Society, he proved invaluable in assisting Dr. Erson to provide aid to the injured and dying. Word quickly spread and others with medical training arrived on the scene. Local chemists grabbed armfuls of bandages and rushed to give help. The most seriously injured were soon placed in cabs and conveyed to the Huddersfield Infirmary.

Among the others who helped were Aldermen Walker and Denham, Councillor Hanson, and Mr. Harrison of the Temperance Hotel4, who took some of the less badly injured there to await transport to the Infirmary.

Once the car had been cleared of those inside, the driver Roscoe slowly advanced the engine and smashed car into St. George’s Square. Both were then taken down the Corporation’s tramcar shed where orders were eventually given to the police to guard the engine.

A reporter from the Huddersfield Chronicle was soon at the Infirmary and reported:

The scene was, indeed, one of the saddest possible to conceive. The groans of the injured, the ghastly appearance of many of them, and the sight of so much human suffering was enough to unnerve the stoutest hearts.

In the next blog post, we’ll look in more depth at those involved with the accident, including the seven passengers who died. A final post will recount the details of the inquest and the jury’s decision as to whether or not any one individual was criminally responsible for the deaths of the seven passengers.

Sources and Further Reading